Friday, 9 October 2009

Shalom from Tiberias

I am now one-week old in Tiberias, but needless to say, it seems far, far longer! It is SO good to be here, and I have been welcomed so warmly, especially by the staff at the hotel (I am desperately trying to learn names, and am not doing too badly). Already I feel very much at home. Talking of home, the manse is a double storey flat, a 15 minute walk up the hill from the church and hotel (or a 10 minute down!). It is a lovely spacious flat with views over the Lake (Sea of Galilee), so it is good to sit out on the little balcony. THOUGH, we are below sea level, so the temperatures can be quite high. Fortunately there are air-conditioners in the flat – how did I last 15 years in Zambia without them.

The first few days I ate at the hotel – marvellous food, but just too tempting. However, I realised I that I needed to eat at home, so I am trying to remember how to cook. In Zambia, Stephen cooked dinner for me every day, so I have become lazy.

Sunday was my first service. It is held at 6 o’clock in the evening, as Sunday is a working day here. Officially there is only one member, Joanna (I will double the membership!), but often we are joined by visitors to Tiberias. On Sunday, we had eight! Two Dutch visitors (both of whom had marvellous voices and who also knew the hymns), while the rest were all local. The church is situated close to the front, so people are always walking past. Some look in, take a snap and go; others look and stay, which is super. Certainly I was delighted with the way the service went – very informal, with a special atmosphere.

Tiberias has been packed with holiday-makers this week – not necessarily pilgrim groups, but local Israelis. Mostly religious with lots of the Orthodox Jews in their black clothes and prayer shawls. And lots of children! The reason is that it is the Feast of Sukkot, which lasts for just over a week. This is the time when many Jewish families build booths in their gardens – made out of reed-mats, branches, anything which is available. It commemorates how the Israelites wandered in the Wilderness and had to dismantle their homes and put them up again. So they had of necessity to travel light. Lots of good symbolism there for Christians, but also it hit home on a personal level, as I have been giving away various bits and pieces in order to travel light to get out here. Also, regarding Sukkot, the booths have ceilings made of twigs, which means they allow the light in through the cracks (and also the rain!). So, according to my source, God’s love shines unexpectedly on us.

Too much to take in and too much to say!

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