Saturday, May 6, 2023
Shabbat will be over in a couple of hours. As will our tour, which is sad. We had a bit of a shorter day, which was great. As for me, my bags are as packed as possible for the present moment. We meet in the parking lot at 5:45 pm to be taken to dinner (a most delicious dinner at the Ambassador Hotel…the mother of our hotel). I’ve asked for meats (kabobs) and they should be amazing. Then we will come back here and be back in the parking lot with our luggage at 4:00 am. We will be plenty early for our 8:25 am flight, but we follow instructions. This group always follows instructions – and with a smile. They are (and continue to be) amazing.
So, we started the day a bit on the late side for us. 8:30 am on the bus. What a treat. And the hotel is so full that to start that late meant we had breakfast almost to ourselves. No lines. Not much noise (except that which we made). It was delightful.
We were on time (I showed up right at 8:30, which for this group is technically late). Soon we were off to the Shephelah, the hill country of Judah. It was wonderful to make this trek on Shabbat because there was no traffic. None. So we wound our way down from the high hills of Jerusalem to explore another geographic areas of Israel. I love that we have seen most all the regions on this trip. Manhal described our descent and what we were seeing, and the biblical stories came one right after another. The sun stood still. The ark of the covenant came up the valley being pulled by nursing cows. Jesus walked and talked with some followers on the day of His resurrection. Someone of great strength lost that strength for his love of women, especially one in particular.
In less than an hour we were parked at Tel Lachish. Here the Assyrian army defeated the armies of Judah under King Hezekiah. It was a bloody and ugly battle for Judah. They Assyrians, fresh off their defeat of the northern Kingdom of Israel, were ready to march straight up the hills to Jerusalem and add that city to their conquered lands. They built a siege ramp (we saw it) and defeated the city easily. Then they were off to Jerusalem.
The Tel is interesting. There are remains of the palace of Rehoboam (first king of the southern kingdom). It is a large Tel and was a very significant city, second only to Jerusalem. Of course, God spared Jerusalem from defeat as Hezekiah repented and sought God’s help.
Anyway, back on the bus. We were headed to the Valley of Elah. But there were no restrooms at Lachish (the visitor’s center is still under construction). So we stopped at a gas station. It is Shabbat so it was a haven for bikers. They were out in full glory today. Someone, however, discovered that they offered iced coffee, so I had to get one to say thanks for the free restroom use. It was yummy. Curse you again, Andrew, for introducing them to me.
One Elah, where we pulled off the side of the road and then just walked into nowhere. At the end of nowhere there was a dry riverbed (more like a creek) filled with rocks. I mean what else? We are in the land of rocks. We are in the fringe of the Elah Valley and can see the location of the camp of the Philistines and the camp of the Israelites. We read the story of David and Goliath from the text and then gathered our own stones. They say David’s were baseball-size, but those don’t travel well. So found the smoothest stones we could and settled.
Back onto the bus and off to our last stop of the day, Tel Gezer. Now, that place was very hard to locate and took us on some very bumpy and narrow dirt roads. Or paths. It took a while to negotiate all of that, but we made it. We made it along with a ton of private vehicles parked everywhere. It’s Shabbat and families love to come and hike the Tel. It is still free, so that is attractive to them. There was not another bus in sight, and there probably won’t be another one in which I am riding. It was about a mile hike to the standing stones I wanted to see and talk about. Some were willing, but it was better to head back to Jerusalem (and lunch) to leave us time to pack. We are on a plane soon.
On the way back to Jerusalem we stopped (for the second time) at Aroma for lunch. This one was much busier than the one in Beersheba, but it was good. We like it. Sandwiches and salads. I opted for the avocado and hard-boiled egg (minus the tomato), this time on their wheat bread. It was delicious. And curse our guide for introducing me to the iced coffee with American ice cream. It’s our last day in Israel, I just had to indulge. And I did.
We were just 20 minutes from our hotel at this point. Shabbat is a great day on the highway. We made it back with no traffic. Lovely.
I am packed. Clean. Ready for our Farewell Dinner. We have worn ourselves out, but in a wonderful way. We might just sleep all the way to LAX. Wouldn’t that be nice?
Back from our delicious farewell dinner at the Ambassador. It was yummy. Of course, I left my phone back in my hotel room, which made taking pictures difficult, not impossible. Paul Weber took some on his Android, and to make sure, Andrea took some on her iPhone (whew). I guided us to dinner since Manny met us there. That was an eventful guiding experience for all.
But we are all back. I am packed. Once this is done and sent off, I shall be turning off my lights and getting some sleep. We are up early and off to the airport by 4:00 am. But I am underweight (in two checked bags). Sweet. No worries about weight at the airport.
It’s been a wonderful trip with a. wonderful group. They are all so amazing, my job has been a joy. But it’ll be great to get home again. I can’t wait. See you all soon. Very soon. Well, not that soon.