Bethlehem – journey to birthplace of Christ part II – nuts on Christmas

Parts 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5

Ok, which food reminds you of Christmas?   Turkey? mince pies? Christmas pudding?  Ok, some of these will depend of regional customs that different Christians celebrate Christmas, ie: Christmas pudding is largely a British thing I think.

Now think which food really actually could be found in the Holyland during Christmas?   I have blogged before about Pomegranates before, but how about nuts?

More specifically almonds.

One of the group pointed out this tree, its got ripe nuts on it!   So after shaking it quite a bit, most of the nuts fell onto one of the metal shelters next door (duh)   after a few times, I got a few on the ground, and after breaking them open with a big most of them were quite nice.

Before leaving the grotto park, the garden also had strangely lots of small holes and tunnels in the ground.  Didn’t see if these were natural quirky bits of geology or if they made by someone.

Below Christmas is in full swing here, decorations were mostly quite discrete and tasteful.  Tourism from Christians of course is the life blood of the economy of Bethlehem.

more soon….

Parts 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5

arm break… two weeks after operation..

Two weeks after my operation and I went back to hospital to have my stitches removed.

After the nurse undid the bandages and cut out the stitches, it seems its been a success!  I now just have a scar and some bruising, my arm is still very sore and I cant lift anything heavier than a cup of tea, I have trouble sleeping, doing things like getting up from sitting on the floor or out of the bath I have to pull myself up one-handed as I must not put any pressure on it.  In theory I could probably drive now, but decided its not worth it for the cost of getting tax and insurance for my car when I want to return to the middle east as soon as I am fit.

I am thankful to God and to people who prayed for my recovery, its gone well so far.

I have to return in another 4 weeks (25th February)  for another check up, they have not said if I need physio, but apparently the wires in my arm do not need to come out now, they are neatly tucked inside the muscles so they are there for the rest of my life.   Means I can make a nuisance of myself going through security doorways!

I do want to get on and fly back soon, but will plan this as soon as I get the next hospital consultation.

Bethlehem – journey to birthplace of Christ part I – The Grotto

Parts 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5

Today (27th December)   I went to Bethlehem, I was planning on going Christmas day, but as I had no else to go with (travelling to the Palestinian territories on your own is not advised)  and that it would be hugely crowded I went with a family who are parents of one of the other volunteers here.   This family was partly here with a tour of some Filipino Christians who were here for a couple of weeks.   I got to Hillel Street at 8.30am and we all packed onto a coach.

The trip out of Jerusalem into Bethlehem is pretty short, getting through borders to the Palestinian territories is nothing that complex either.   Once through the gate in the concrete walls, this hotly contested area of the middle east isn’t at all that different from a regular part of Israel.   I can see olive, orange and lemon trees with fruit on, houses in the familiar style stone, none of the land is particular flat, you are forever going up and down and around curves, there are children playing, of course this is an Arab district and I see mosques and minarets more or less the same as Jerusalem.

Bits of Bethlehem do look quite untidy just like outer parts of Jerusalem, half finished houses (or should that be houses with extensions unfinished?)  broken cars rusting away, rubbish strewn around rocks, but at least where I could see, it doesn’t seem to be all full of poverty, there are large modern houses with swimming pools as well, and just like Jewish culture, the Arabs have plenty of small businesses of all kinds.   The cars look noticeably older (despite most cars in Jerusalem are old and knackered looking) mostly 1980s Peugeots, Renaults and Toyotas, and they have green licence plates and sign posts are in Arabic with no Hebrew to be seen.
The first stop on the coach was at this place called the The Shepherd’s place, which had a park which had an entrance with the words “Gloria in Excelcius Deo” (sounds like some words from a hymn?)  Here is a very pretty chapel and some really beautiful views of the Judean hills.

Here is the inside of this chapel, the pictures here tell some of the story in the Christmas carols…

Spent a good while here, this picture below shows me with the hills in the background, this location is where the Shepherds watched their flocks that came to visit Jesus.

aha, now I know where Santa got the idea of calling his workplace a ‘grotto’ 🙂

Parts 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5

Curry and beer with the lads, and a message from the ambulance chasers?

I went out to meet up with my very good friends John P and Harry M for a Ruby Murray at the Goa on Saturday, it was a good way to catch up, especially as my friends are although married still like to do general lads stuff often.  On the way to meet up with my friend who came down on the train so not to drive and be able have a few beers, I got a text message.  It was from an Ambulance chaser, you know the sales people who have asked you if you have an accident and that you could claim compensation.

Would of this just been a coincidence that I got this so soon after getting discharged from hospital?   Sounds like there could be a breach of confidentiality here, a little worrying.

The disturbing thing I didn’t really think about until today was where they got details about my accident.

Could it be the hospitals?  As I have done IT support for two (Portsmouth & Southampton) different NHS authorities I know that any kind of patient data breach would get a member of staff investigated very very quickly, and extremely likely to be dismissed and possibly be subject to criminal prosecution.

Does someone comb facebook (my phone no is on there, and a picture of me in hospital post op) looking for possible source of punters?  Or, seen this blog and decided to look me up some how perhaps?

Anyhow slipping on ice in a Southsea street shouldn’t really mean the council or anyone else could be blamed, it was slippery as anything, certainly it wouldn’t make sense to blame the council, if everyone legally could do this this simply mean our council tax would have to go up by loads, to make a large pool of money for people suing for any old daft thing which I don’t think is right.

5/2/10  – update, I have found more about what these people do….

Zionism – a bad word to some?

I have always wondered why some people think Zionism is a dirty word.

Many times in the news its kind of used as a slur for the way the way Jews have been returning to Israel from all across the diaspora, occasionally its even Christians, some that have studied all kinds of theology but appear to be perhaps lacking in what was taught in Isaiah and Jeremiah maybe.  When speaking to people about my interests and visits to Israel, a couple of times I have been responded “Oh so you are a Zionist are you?  ah yes these sorts of people hate Palestinians, Arabs and Iranians…” This is sad when people make rash and quick judgments like this.

There is plenty of authors of books critical of Israel, plenty are on sale on Amazon (even including some Jews, including people like Noam Chomsky, Norman Finkelstein etc) ex-US president Jimmy Carter and former TV newsreader celebrity nutter David Icke like to look at Zionism being the worst kind of evil organisation ever.    Likened to the Freemasons or some other paranoid organisation which has a corrupting influence on the world, and that Jews in some way are controlling.   Really this is and should be quite laughable.   There were famous books printed like the Elder protocols of Zion and founder of the blue oval motor maker, Henry Ford wrote some similar poisonous material, some of these nasty propaganda manuals are still treated as legitimate reference material today, as part of other modern day hatred such as holocaust denial.   Its part of what I think make Anti-Semitism a bigger problem than people think and worse than other hatred of any specific racial group.

In reality these views can be held completely nonsense, when you look at the wide number of ethnic people in Israel, and different types of Jews worldwide.   If you look at Aliyah, its true people emigrated to Israel, especially around the early 1990s with going with ideal of all Jews going into one nation closely to what the Torah said, but at the same time many Jews also made Aliyah because they had to, albeit sometimes reluctantly, as persecution in their previous homelands of nations like Yemen, Iran, Kazakhstan, Ethiopia etc, was unbearable or meant they could of faced death.   For some other Jewish people the idea to go may have been purely economic, the promise of a job and financial security.  For this reason many Israelis I have met can be secular or atheistic.

Where as Israel gets sizable amounts of money from the US government, its no secret so has the Palestinian authority.  The Magon David ambulance organisation in Israel has all its fleets of vehicles donated by Jewish organisations mostly in the US but sometimes also from Canada and France.   There are many Christian organisations in the US that have supplied money to charities and needy people in Israel, mostly because a good proportion of tax Shekels have to go to the military defending Israel against frequent threats from terrorism or war with its neighbours.   Despite this and than poverty in Israel is high, Israel has made a high contribution to the rest of the world in terms of its exports, large amounts of fruit and vegetables, technology (IT, telecoms, renewable power, water treatment, etc) medicine and healthcare innovations are just a small example of these.

I am a supporter of Israel and the Jewish people, this could mean I could be considered to be a Christian Zionist, but would like to clarify things first.  I believe God still has a plan for the Hebrew as outlined in the scriptures, that as Christians we are grafted in as his people.  Sadly because of the false doctrine of what often known as replacement theology, people assume that Israel in the bible is more of a metaphorical ‘Israel’ for the modern day church.  Paul says clearly in Romans 11 : 1 about this common misconception.   I believe Jesus will still return to Jerusalem one days as promised in the scriptures, this is why Israel is never not in the mainstream news, as Satan attempts to twist and alter things in order to change unsuccessfully what God is planning.

Christians that support Israel are not always one particular breed or denomination.  I have seen quite a few Christians visit Israel, from all over the place including Nigeria, South Korea and Japan.   I have even seen a small group of people (they had name tags) at the Kotel recently from the Faeroe Islands, an extremely small little known Nordic island nation between Scotland and Iceland.

As a Christian I think its vital we don’t become complacent, and speak up and pray against hatred and lies spoke in governments around the world and in the media.  I think God loves the Palestinian and the Arab and Persian people, its true also in recent times there have been large numbers of people in Islamic nations (do some searches on Youtube) come to Christ, normally this is secret as they can be in extreme danger, for this reason its hard to gauge how many Moslems, Hindus, Sikhs, etc come to Christ each year around the world.

The newspapers in the UK most definitely want to pick someone to blame for current world problems, whether its overpaid bankers, foreign immigrants coming in and wanting to change things to suit them, change the way our children are taught in British schools, worryingly extremist political groups like the BNP or Islam4UK, a kind of ‘bogeyman’ we can all blame.   The scriptures in Ephesians 6:12 says “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Here its sin which can manifest into many different things that causes worry and distress.

For me, I only identify myself as a regular Christian, I may contribute in my church in welcome team, or being in prayer groups in some IT businesses I have worked at and in looking after the computer systems for Christian charity in Jerusalem.  I am purely here as a servant to do whatever God leads me into doing, the only incentive or reward being able to see help go to the people that need it, make some new friends and get to study biblical places in more detail.  I am not in Israel to convert people as this is greatly frowned upon and is illegal, its more of case of just a loving attitude in terms of me serving out there in terms of the context of my official volunteer job and spending time with some of my native Israeli friends.

When I see other Christians I know volunteer in nations like South Africa, Chile, Uganda, China etc, I don’t usually ask about politics, as its not fair to make assumptions based on what the media say, its not always easy to sum up what is right or wrong from casual observance.  I also avoid mentioning political stuff to friends back in the UK (both Christian and non-Christian) due to antagonistic questions I have been asked and such.

For me, Israel is where almost all of the events of the bible happened, and where Christ himself will come again, and many things prophesied in the scriptures have become reality, the reformation of the modern state of Israel, a lot of its neighbours being its enemies, the way the Hebrew language which was something only ever kept for reading religious books has now made it into a usable language in business and every day, all of this in little over sixty years.  It is only by sticking to a roadmap of what the Lord outlined in the bible will there be peace, as opposed to any artificial plan created by any other authority.

Israelis go to help children in Haiti

Perhaps you wont have seen this in the main stream news so much but a group of Israelis set up a field hospital to treat people affected by the recent tragedy in Haiti.  At the moment the little state in middle east remains one of the biggest in setting up emergency health care in the stricken Caribbean island.

Someone like the BBC probably wouldn’t be interested in publishing such a story with its frequent harsh criticism of Israel but one of the heart touching parts here is the Doctor that gave some of own blood to save a child’s life.

Story here

three flights for 2010…

I am looking to return back to Jerusalem to volunteer a bit longer.   I am seeking means to get sponsorship as I am expected to raise funds for airfare, health insurance, rent, bills and food.

In May, I wish to go to a close friend’s wedding in Spain, also my sister has a baby (ETA is 21st May) this time, I am planning to stay this time till the summer, so a rough idea of a schedule is as follows:-

Fly Luton to Tel Aviv (approx £200 return) – February
Fly Tel Aviv to Luton – 3rd week of May
Go home, see sister, husband and new baby
Fly Stansted to Asturias (Spain) – 4th week of May
Fly Asturias back to Stansted – 3 days after above
Stay somewhere in Luton or Stansted, one night, then;
Fly from Luton back to Tel Aviv
Fly Tel Aviv to Luton – some point in summer?

All flights are to be done with Easyjet, the budget airline.   Flights from UK>IL are expected to be around £200 lowest end of February’s prices, to include all taxes/baggage allowance.

So I am needing at least £500 for just three flights and all the messing about in between.  I am not working at the moment whilst in the UK, and its not possible to get anything due to my recent broken elbow.

Also with my recent injury I need to get a good deal with travel insurance that doesn’t mind dealing with customers with an ongoing health issue.  Not sure how this normally works.

I am prayerfully looking to raise funds for the first part of my second chapter in my volunteering, would be grateful of any suggestion of ideas or opportunities.

Journey to the Red Sea – part four; Awakening on Eid


I was awoken at somewhere around 5am, there was utterly terrible noise blasted into my bedroom, putting the pillow around my ears didn’t help, a deep bass male Arabic voice drones in this dream like dirge, it seem to go on for ages before I eventually had some silence.

After wondering what it was, I realised it was because it was Eid, an important Islamic festival, hence people buying goats and sheep for slaughter the previous day, outside the hotel is a mosque with a large minaret, it was this that broadcasts the Muslim prayers at an uncomfortably early hour.   Getting up and using the shower it was clear why the hotel was cheap, plumbing and electrics in the middle east and not the same as they are in the west.   The basin was partly coming away from the wall and the toilet only had one (loose) bolt holding it to the floor so it wobbles, when you flush it, water (clean fortunately!) comes out of the cistern.   Two other toilets I have seen in other parts of Jordan had the whole top of the cistern missing requiring the user to put their hand inside and pull the ball-cock lever thing to flush it.

There are several well known hotel chains in Wadi Moussa, one of them is the Movenpick (think this is also a Norwegian brand ice cream?)  right next to Petra’s entrance, the others are much further up the multiple Z shaped bends, being out of the way of the noisy chants of the mosques.

But for all this the hotel staff were very friendly, the younger chap was about 22 and said he had been to a University (Leeds I think he said) in the UK, and his Dad was the main owner of this place.

So I headed out to the famous historical site that is Petra.

The price to get in is I think was 22 Dinars, there were discounts for two or three days visits, this required a signature check to stop tickets being resold.  The Jordanian Dinar is close-ish to the value of the UK Pound, something like 85-90 pence.

The front of the place was a amusing Indiana Jones banner on a van with gifts for sale, there are many stands all over the park, some up the top of the mountain tents, providing local made jewellery and souvenirs to those who climb up to the top.

Well not a lot to say that cant be said in pictures, Petra is truly spectacular!!!!

Will put on pictures of Petra very soon.