I’ve had a month now getting situated here in Israel, and have been getting involved in a lot of things.
I am living in a dormitory at the top of the Mount of Olives inside the Augusta Victoria complex which contains a big Lutheran church, hospital, and a World Vision headquarters. Living in Jerusalem is not bad really, at least as an American. Walking down the streets in the Jewish areas like Ben Yehuda and Jaffa Street, where many bombings have occurred (the Sbarro pizza place for instance) you see armed Israeli soldiers and heavily armored jeeps everywhere.
In the evenings another Matt and I have been walking down the street to a small coffee shop where local Muslims gather every night to hang out and play cards. We have made friends with many of them, and even talked bits about Jesus. They are very welcoming people. The first night we stepped in and tried their Arabic coffee, they let us have it for free. They also showed us how to play some of their card games. I am still looking for opportunities to really talk to them about Jesus, although they know that we are “Nushrani” (Christians). There hasn’t been hardly any problems with the Muslims and us Americans, though they are clearly not fond of Mr. Bush. There was one incident just after I arrived here with Matt, who is a DTS student, who got mugged by an Arab trying to steal his laptop. He was not alone, but was walking with two girls in the evening. They were fine, but Matt had come out with a bloody nose, and still has his laptop.
Some afternoons/evenings we have gone up the road inside the Augusta Victoria complex to a small store where Arab doctors and residents hang out and play backgammon or table tennis.
There have been a few small attacks around Israel in the last month, which has created difficulties for us as we were doing Islamic studies in Bethlehem which gets closed up whenever things are tense. Sometimes the DTS leaders living in Bethlehem would get stuck, and sometimes we would have to postpone teaching. One afternoon in class, 20 fighter jets flew directly over the town at a low level creating a really loud noise and interrupting our lecture. The two weeks of Islam is done however, and I’ve had about as much of it as I care to have.
Just the other day, on Wednesday the 30th, we took a trip with two Window Ministries staff—Andrew and Stevie, to the town of Nablus, a Muslim city where many terrorists have come from. We went through two check points, showing our passports, and when we told the Israeli soldier we were touring the Holy Land, they seemed confused: “Holy? …are you sure you want to go there?…If you want to go, I won’t stop you…” I noticed at the checkpoint where the Arabs wait to leave Nablus a variety of things: an Israeli soldier pushing an Arab woman back pretty sternly because she was too close for their liking. A crowd of people also wanting to go through but getting pushed back, and an Arab man with a blood stained shirt with his hand inside it holding his chest, and a bandage wrapped around his head. I don’t know what he was doing out there. Driving to and through Nablus, I saw roads into and out of all the surrounding villages completely blocked by mounds of dirt and rocks. People have no way to get in or out by vehicle. The government buildings in Nablus are bombed and still in ruins. They look like a huge earthquake crumbled them. In Nablus we visited a small Bible Society book shop that has only been open for a week, and they have only been granted a permit to be open for a month. The owner is Arab and has hopes of holding some English teaching there using the Bible as the textbook. The demand amongst Arabs for learning English is so great, they won’t really care if it’s a Bible or not. We also brought some boxes of Jesus films for the shop. There might have been more trouble than we cared to have if the Israeli soldiers found them in our vans. But thankfully they didn’t bother to look.
My Arabic is coming along well, I get good practice at the card shop, as we call it; we take our dictionaries with us, and they even help us with our pronunciation.
Next week starts the month of Ramadan for the Muslims. Our base will be praying everyday against it. All month long the Muslims fast and pray during the day, and then feast at night, and there is a lot of increased wickedness that goes on during this time, so remember also to be in prayer. We are hoping to make some more trips to other tows like Hebron and Gaza, where we also plan to do outreach after classes are over. We are also planning on going to Turkey at the end of December. We were supposed to go a week ago, but it’s good they didn’t because I had no money for it. There is still a need for support for that, it will cost $200 plus $60 customs fee just for Americans.
Please continue to pray for us and the Muslims around here. God bless.