Day 9 Ein Karem, Valley of Elah, Nebi Sameul, Garden Tomb

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February 20th 2018
Published: February 20th 2018
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Today we visited the birthplace of John The Baptist at Ein Karem. The family actually had two houses - one in the valley and one on the high hill where they spent the summers to escape the heat. It is believed that Mary (mother of Jesus) visited Elizabeth at the one in the hills. John The Baptist is believed to have been born in the house in the valley. John the Baptist was one of the babies that should have been killed when Herod ordered all the boys under the age of two to be put to death, however hie was hidden and saved. The church built on the site of the winter home is one of the most beautiful church I've seen. It is filled with beautiful ceramic tile from floor to ceiling. The pictures I took will not do it justice.

As we were walking back to the bus we got stopped by all the street vendors. I really haven't written much about them but most of them are quite pushy, pushy. At nearly every stop we are greated by the street vendors. They are selling anything from jewelry, scarves, olive wood, anything you can imagine. They always come down in price. Some start off with 3 for 20 dollars but as you walk away the price comes down...4 for 20 or even 5 for 20. We are all competing for the best deal! Street vendors are also known to be pick pockets but I think that happens more in the heart of the old city. They always try to play on your sympathies. "I have no money!" "I have 5 kids to feed!" One of them said "I married an American and now I'm broke!" They always ask, "You American? Where you from ?" "We love Americans!" We love you more if you spend money!!" But one thing is for sure they always finish with "God Bless!" This group of vendors weren't so pushy and we all thought we got great deals, that is till we got to the bus and Rod Windom got more necklaces for his 10 dollars than me!

Following a very long, very winding road (which made me car sick), we arrived at the Valley Elah. This is the actual place that David slew Goliath. You can read that story in 1 Samuel 17. We even got pictures of the brook where David picked up his stones.

Our next stop was the village of Emmaus. This is one of my favorite places because of the experience I had on my Mid Ohio Valley Women's Walk to Emmaus several years ago.If its something you are interested in you should contact me. The;scripture reading is from Luke 24:13-35. There are three different sites that could be the Road to Emmaus but this site is the one that makes sense based on the research. I picked up stones along the path as a remembrance.

The next place we visited was Nebi Samuel. It was a military fortress during the Crusaders period, a religious site, and a place for Christians to stay enroute to Jerusalem. It i the traditional site of the tomb of Samuel, the great prophet of the Old Testament. He is the one God sent to anoint David when David was just a young boy. You can read about it in 1 Samuel 16. By this time we were hungry so we headed to lunch. We ate at the Rachael Ramat Kibbutz in Jerusalem. A kibbutz is what we might think of as a commune. It is where many families live in the same community and work at the community/kibbutz businesses. Everyone then shares the income which is often in the tourist trade. Part of the income is to help grow the kibbutz businesses. There are several kibbutz in Israel. This one is the oldest.

Our last stop is another one of my favorites...The Garden Tomb. This is a site that was discovered in the 1800's as the possible site for Jesus Tomb. It is beautiful there and certainly makes you think that this is the actual tomb of Jesus. There is a "Skull HIll" nearby. It is near a busy thoroughfare. There is a tomb that dates back to the time of Christ or before. The tomb belonged to a wealthy Jewish man, but again no one knows for sure. We got to have communion there and it was touching. We have a bus of 39 people from Texas, North Carolina, West Virginia, Delware, and Missouri. There are two people from Korea. In the beginning we don't really know one another, but after being together, riding a bus, having devotions, eating meals, singing, laughing and so on we develop a relationship with one another. To share communion together regardless of background, church affiliation, or even a language barrier is so touching especially after getting to now one another. It truly is one of my favorite parts of the trip.

Once we arrived back at the hotel a very large group of us decided to try and navigate our way clear across town to the hotel we usually stay in when we've gone on this trip....The Olive Tree Hotel. I was sort of the one who lead the way,, never having used public transportation on my own in a foreign city. After checking with the front desk in our hotel, we went to the train station. It took a short time to figure out how to buy tickets for 16 people, but we got it done. We got on the train and headed in the right direction. I was thinking this was too easy. Not Bad!! Then four of our party got off at the stop we agreed to and the rest of us hesitated when the door didn't open and then the train pulled away. Poor Robeyn Deem! I only wish I had a picture of her face!! Linda Leasure tried to pull the emergency button and she succeeded to stop the train but we still couldn't open the door. Panic set in for a couple of people. We asked if anyone spoke one did, at least not near us. We got off at the next stop but the funniest thing was the reaction of the people on the train. They were laughing, smiling, and waving at "those crazy Americans" that made such a scene on their train! It was hysterical! After several tries we got in touch with our 4 lost people...I knew two of them were scared to death but the other two, Rod Windom and Gail Cokeley would remain level headed. Debbie Mincks had been lost the day before so I new she would be terrified thinking this was going to be a repeat of the previous day. And we'd all seen Robeyn's face. To top it off it was getting dark! We finally linked up at The Olive Tree Hotel. The funniest part of all was just as the four lost souls sat down outside the Olive Tree our bus driver, Saleem, pulled up, opened the door and said "What are you doing clear over here? Why didn't you ask me to bring you?" He could have saved us all the trouble and confusion but we wouldn't have laughed like we did. I'm sure we were the dinner table talk of all the Israelis on the train....."You will never believe what happen on the train tonight....Crazy Americans!!" We finally went to our favorite souvenir shop - Abraham's Antiquities - He was so glad to see us! He started singing County Roads when Bill Dawson walked through the door. The ride back on the train was uneventful but we made sure we all got off at the same stop. Of course we only had a half hour to run to the hotel and eat our dinner but it made for an exciting evening!

Now we are all tired, in our rooms, and packing for tomorrow. After our day of sight seeing, some of start the long journey home; some prepare to go on to Egypt for 5 days and one brave 73 year old is staying in Jerusalem for 3 extra days;;;;;by herself!!! The time has flown. Tomorrow we will visit two museums and go our separate ways. I doubt I will get to blog because I'm not sure I will have Internet. This has been such a great trip with great company. I'm glad I got to share it with others.

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