"Our feet are standing within your gates, O Jerusalem!" (Psalm 122:2) Pam and I arrived in our comfy room in the Old City safe and sound nearly 24 hours after leaving home at o'dark hundred! On the drive from the airport in Tel Aviv into Jerusalem we stoped to explore three possible sites for the ancient village of Emmaus. This is where the risen Jesus appeared to Cleopas and his extended family in the breaking of bread around their table on the evening of the first Easter. Since we have been teaching on that event this Easter season at Good Shepherd we decided it called for some more first-hand on-site research!
After visiting the traditional Byzantine and Crusader sites, neither of which are historically convincing to me, we had fun exploring a little-known site with far more historical probability behind it. All this was made more fun by the inclusion of a young Orthodox Jewish woman named Lisa who sat next to us on the plane and accepted our invitation to accompany us on our mini-adventure! We enjoyed a delicious Middle-Eastern lunch with Lisa in the village of Abu Gosh before dropping her off at some friends' home in Jerusalem just in time for the celebration of Shabbat.
It seems to be the new trend these past two years, but nearly all the members of our group decided to come one to three days early just to get settled in before the trip officially begins. Pam and I were delighted to meet some of the Australians who have come with our friends Malcolm and Cheryl Potts who are helping us lead the trip. Then the bulk of the American contingent arrived in time to enjoy a lovely dinner together at our good friend's excellent restaurant Versavee, just inside Jaffa Gate. After dinner some of us took an evening stroll down to the Western Wall. It was all quiet by the time we arrived, but just hours earlier the plaza was filled with Jewish worshipers celebrating the beginning of Shabbat.
Tomorrow Pam and I will scout out some sites in the desert south of Jerusalem with Malcolm and Cheryl before the Footsteps of Jesus Experience officially begins with dinner in the Old City. Honestly, I can't wait! Keep checking back for updates ...