Day 12: A Whole Different World.

by Alexandra Rutkowski

The day began in a soup kitchen/free restaurant in Tiberius. We are PRO at peeling vegetables, just thought y’all should know that. Most everyone from the group socialized with the people who came in for meals, so Caleb and I sat down at a table with two men… who of course ended up not speaking English. [Awkward silence.] The next two people who came did not speak the language either. Of course they didn’t. That would happen to us. One of the men who sat down spoke everything but English. Hebrew, Russian, Bulgarian, and a little bit of French and Polish. I tried speaking French and he just waved his hands around. I spoke Polish to him and he just look startled and started waving his hands around saying, “Prosze Panie!!” That was a fail. But we did use our hands to get him to kind of talk about the food and his family. I think. We had absolutely no idea what he was saying. We looked around and everyone was engaging in conversation with people who spoke at least a little bit of English. Pssh, at least we tried. All in all, volunteering at the restaurant was a great experience. They are providing meals for over 5000 children every day. Pray for them. They need at the help they can get.

[3+ hour bus ride. And a glorious nap.]

Made a quick 15-minute bathroom break overlooking Jericho. (As embarrassing as this is, I’ve always pictured Jericho still with the ruins of the walls. And you know, a scarlet cloth laying in the debri. Yeah, that’s definitely not what we saw from a distance.) During that time, we had the chance to visit the site at the Jordan River where the Israelites crossed and most likely where Christ was baptized. There were soldiers patrolling the area on both sides, and they ended up being very personable- I even got a picture with the IDF! The water was muggy and green so no one went in except for Caleb, Hadassah, and I. I was wearing a dress, of course. We were literally 10 feet away from Jordan. It was strange just talking to the people on the other side about the price of Coca-Cola in Jordan. It was like a whole different world.

Next stop: Hebron for the Tomb of the Patriarchs! This is where Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Rebecca, Leah, and Sarah are buried. This is where it got a little strange. The tomb is divided into two parts: one for Jews, the other for Muslims. Neither is allowed in the other’s half. Going into the Jewish half was interesting. Of course, the men had to cover their heads with their hands, while the girls didn’t have to do anything. At holy sites, however, the girls have to have their knees and shoulders covered. To meet that criteria, I had to put on a black sweater and thick scarf over my dress. But when we got to the Muslim half, wow. Complete opposite. The men were fine, but the women had to wear these hooded robes that resembled something out of a cult.  On top of everywhere I already was wearing… when it’s 112 degrees in the shade, this does not makes me a happy camper. Or tourist. The contrast between these two halves was amazing. The Muslim half was ornate and the decor was elaborate, as opposed to the simple elegance of the Jewish side. Our tour guide was not allowed to visit the Muslim half, obviously, because he is Jewish.

And we were almost pick-pocketted by a five year old. Don’t be fooled by those adorable faces, haha. See that kid down below? Yep, that’s him. 

In the afternoon, Ilan, our guide, was speaking to us outside of the building where the burial sites are located. Carrying a Bible into that area is strictly prohibited. Growing up in a land where you have complete religious freedom, that was so different. I’ve never been told I can’t carry the Word with me. Here it’s different. Because of that, Michael just pulled out his iPad and read Scripture from there. You can’t stop us from reading the Word. During our talk there, however, we witnessed the Muslim call to prayer throughout the entire city. A speaker system close to wear we were sitting on the top of the hill blasted out the foreign prayers, which were joined by voices of countless Muslims from throughout the city. That was surreal. I felt such unrest, it’s hard to explain.

Upon getting settled into our hostel rooms, we were surprised by a beautiful dinner setup outside with lights. I was shocked. Wow. And the food. Wowza… that was good. And even though we are half-way through into the trip, Michael thought it would be a good time to do introductions. Better late than never, I suppose. We went around the table sharing an interesting fact or story that no one knew. That was a ball. I tell you what, those stories are never leaving that table.

Tomorrow, it’s going to be Cabbalah Shabbat dinner. (I like to say Cabbalah Shabbat in Efrat. Try it, it’s fun.) The legitimate kind. We’ll be meeting with a famous rabbi to share the time with and I believe we’ll be ending with a lecture/debate on eschatology. This is definitely something I’m looking forward to. Even though the day was slow in comparison to others, it was still exhausting. God has blessed us so much on this trip. I wish I could articulate my gratitude. He spoils us like this, but He also uses these things to prepare us for ministry. This trip isn’t just about having a good time or doing a little work here and there. It’s about developing God’s heart for Israel. Now that we’re heading towards Jerusalem, the real work is about to start. This past week has been so packed with information, my brain feels like it’s going to explode. And there’s so much more to come. It’s overwhelming. My heart breaks for the plight of these people, as God’s does. I need to know more. We’re just about halfway through this trip and so much has happened and changed so far. My perspective on many things and my spiritual walk in general. God, I’m excited to see what you’ve got up Your sleeves the next few days. 

As I said before, it’s like a whole different world. In this world, persecution and discrimination is not hidden, concrete walls around roads protect from terrorist fire, and IDF soldiers patrol everywhere. But I’ve fallen in love with this world. I’ve fallen in love with this land.