Archive for July, 2011

Angels on the Road

July 12, 2011

“I’m so glad you said ‚yes‘!“ Atalia cheers at least for the third time, grinning from ear to ear. She and Mark approach us after we learned shortly before reaching Netanya that the so-called ‘Angels on the Road’ were busy. What we’re referring to is this excellent network of helpers in place, offering inexpensive or at times even free accommodation, drinking water or other assistance to shvil hikers. Back up north, after our first night out in the open when we were left standing outside the locked gates of a moshav, Reut used our mobile phone to call an ‘angel’. So not long afterwards, we were told we could spend the night in what used to be a kindergarten in exchange for a voluntary small fee towards water and electricity. What a great establishment! When we were walking in the north, we had spent most nights in our tent or with friends, so we only had to make use of the network for the second time, the evening before we met Atalia. “Sure, you can stay with us.” Gil, a trail angel, reassures us at the other end of the line. “Fantastic!“ we cheer. We picture ourselves pitching our tent in their garden this night which is fine with us. Online we had read that there was a ‘shower facility’, which in our point of view didn’t necessarily equal a roof over our heads. Gil comes towards us on the beach and takes us to his home. Inside, he shows us to a room complete with a double bed and an ensuite bathroom. We can’t believe our luck! We are in for another surprise when Gil‘s wife, Anat, knocks on our door a little later saying: “Feel free to come and join us when you’re ready. Gil’s just making supper for us all.“ We’re speechless. Later Gil tells us this is the second year they participate in the ‘angel network‘. “Last year, we had around 150 hikers stay at our place.“ On the following morning, after Anat has encouraged us to use the network more often, Hanspeter phones two ‘angels‘. Sadly, both of them turn us down for lack of time. Shortly after that, it is already later in the day, we meet Atalia and Mark. They’ve just returned from a trip to Switzerland. “Do you know where you’ll stay tonight?“ Atalia asks. We shake our heads. “Well, then why don’t you come over to our kibbutz?“ she suggests. We spread our mats on the floor that night happy to have found a wonderful roof over our heads at such short notice saying to one another: “If the official angels are busy, God sends us different ones. Fantastic!“

“Unbelievable!“ Hanspeter mutters at least for the third time. We’re north of Tel Aviv and there’s no way around river Yarkon. The tricky bit is that the shvil actually leads across the river, but there’s neither a bridge nor rocks sticking out helping us to cross the waters. Again we marvel at God’s perfect timing: even though we’re on a rather remote stretch of the trail, we suddenly spot a parked vehicle by the river. There is no doubt in Annemarie’s mind that God is giving us this opportunity and immediately makes for the people standing by the car: “Taxi?“ she asks without further ado. While the two young men seem to be still discussing this, the driver motions towards us to jump on the step on each side. Having reached the other side, we’d hardly set our feet on the ground when the car roars off and the men have vanished out of sight. “Thank you, Lord, for even sending us a taxi at the right time!” Through God’s perfect guidance, we even managed to make it to the dedication of little Yonatan Grimberg, the newborn son of good friends of ours. Taking part in the service, we realized what a privilege it is to be able to worship with others. We’re also very grateful for the wonderful hospitality of Alon, Rajaa‘ and Alon’s sister Karin who also make sure we get sufficient fresh fruit and vegetables, which we highly appreciate. These three are angels of a different kind. They are dedicated to serving in various congregations and ministries fostering the reconciliation between Jews and Arabs. In the evening, Karin, who is originally from Germany, shares with us how a traumatic experience can be turned from something negative to something positive (see video).

The day after, we have another encounter that will leave an impression on us. Again we’re on a part of the trail in the middle of nowhere, when suddenly a van pulls over. The driver rolls down his window and asks the second most important question: “Got enough water?” Even though we have filled our water bags that morning, and refilled them at the only possible place, an industrial building, since it’s a scorching hot day we reply: “We’re not sure it’ll last.“ Before we know it, Hagay has got out of his car, opens the back door and lets us refill our water bags. “Thanks Lord, for sending another angel our way,“ we pray with relief afterwards. Again and again we thank Jesus for the great number of hidden ‘angels’ who have been supporting us. Some of them we don’t even know personally. Experiencing the love of God and of people is a privilege and a great source of encouragement.

After His resurrection, Jesus asked Peter three times: „Do you love me?” What a question! Until last summer, Annemarie underwent an English-speaking Bible College programme of several years (http://www.bsfinternational.org) together with more than a hundred women, a time about which she says taught her a great deal. One of the things she found striking when comparing Bible translations was that the German version says that Jesus wanted to do the will of the Father while the English translation reads: “I WANT TO PLEASE HIM.“ Jesus loves His Father so much that He only seeks to do what is pleasing to Him. Seen from this perspective, everything we do for Him becomes a privilege instead of a ‘must’. This way life is a joy.

There are no words to describe our joy about God’s faithfulness throughout our hike. We will still try to put it into words after our arrival. Tomorrow, we’ll pack our backpacks for the very last time to tackle the final stretch of our hike: the climb of Mount Olives. It was on that hill that Jesus ascended to Heaven, and it is the place to which He will return. What a gift it is that He is alive today and that we may already receive His blessings in our lives! We’re so glad He said ‘yes‘ to the way our Father in Heaven had determined for Him.

Two exceedingly grateful hikers about to cross the finish line.

Hanspeter & Annemarie

July 10, 2011     As you may have guessed from our photos, we have arrived on the Mount of Olives and crossed the finish line! We’re now roaming Jerusalem and will be back with more on our experiences soon.

More links:

Website: www.BaselJerusalem.info

Photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/obrist-impulse/sets/72157626901616108/

Videos: http://www.youtube.com/user/BaselJerusalem?feature=mhum#g/u

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On the Israel Trail

July 5, 2011

June 26, 2011

“Where do you spend the night? How heavy are your backpacks? How much money do you carry with you? How many miles do you walk per day? Where and what do you eat?“ All these questions were fired at us by a group of pupils we met climbingMountTabor. When we get back to Switzerland this autumn, we will also be ready to tackle questions in schools, churches, home groups etc. Since we have benefitted many times from listening to other people’s experiences, we thought we might do the same for others. Our first encounter with wild boars in Israel made our hearts beat a bit faster. We then remembered what Judy Pex had mentioned about the bristly creatures in her book. Walking the entire 597 mile length of the Israel Trail or shvil, as it is called in Hebrew, from Eilat in the south to the Lebanese border in the north together with her husband, the authoress wrote down her thoughts and impressions along the way. Later, her travel log was published under the title “Walk the land”, where she mentions that boars do occasionally attack passers-by. Still, after chancing upon some of them at least five times in one day and each time watching them take to their heels quite voluntarily at our sight, our courage rose. So that evening, we thought nothing of pitching our tent out in the open. Around 1:30 in the morning, though, we heard boars’ hooves making rapidly for our makeshift abode which was, let’s be frank, quite insufficiently fortified against pig attacks. As we were pricking up our ears in terror, we heard it stop in its tracks right next to our tent, snorting heavily. In an effort to chase it away, Hanspeter gave several quick flashes with his torch which luckily had the desired effect: it was gone within seconds. But only a short while afterwards, one of its mates came to see us, apparently curious to find out who had dared to invade their habitat. 

Just a couple of days before, following our visit to Banias (see video), we had met two young ladies who were like us about to start the Israel Trail. “Would you mind if we joined you?“ they asked at Kibbutz Dan. “We could spend the night on the sports field here and set off tomorrow” they suggested. We in turn threw in we’d prefer leaving right away thus making good use of the evening chill. So shortly after six that evening, we and our new travel companions, Yaara and Reut, hit the trail. On the following day, we had to take a bit of a detour due to water shortage on Reut’s part. Now we can understand why warning signs have been posted all around the edge of natural reserves here advising hikers to take a minimum of three to five litres of water per head with them. Fellow hikers told us they had carried up to eight litres with them while walking in the south.

Even though a bit thorny, the nature trails in the north offer views of outstanding beauty (see video). There were times we hardly made any progress since we just had to stop to marvel at some miracle of creation or another at every turn. Before the path climbs up Mount Arbel right on the stretch where the Israel Trail and the “Jesus Trail” meet, we could not take our eyes from a stunning rainbow (see video). And one morning, we marvelled at a curled-up centipede as it woke up and slowly set its multitude of tiny little feet in motion. We are glad we only have a pair of feet to think of each. On the first stretch of the national trail we asked  fellow hikers coming up from Eilat about their footwear. Apparently, good hiking boots are essential. On the other hand, the heat in Israel at this time of year makes our sturdy waterproof shoes, which proved invaluable for the best part of the stretch now behind us, quite unbearable at times. After giving this some thought, we have now decided against experimenting with sandals or new hiking boots and to change our socks every hour instead, a routine we have been able to cope well with so far. Last week, our feet were given a bit of rest when we took a break and stayed at Beit Yedidia, a guest house in Haifa. We played tourists for a couple of days and took several drives to Biblical sites in northern Israel. On those outings we also went to see a couple who experienced God’s protection in an extraordinary way (see video). Nazareth Village, an open-air living history museum, was quite fascinating, too. There you can watch the way people lived and worked at the time of Jesus (see video).

Taking in the view of the village of Cana from a spot not far from Nazareth, exactly 10 months after starting out at Basel was a thrilling moment for us. At Cana, Jesus performed his first miracle at a wedding by turning water into wine. Standing there, we remembered the great number of miracles we ourselves had been privileged to witness throughout our hike up to this day. Before we set out, Marianne and Werner lent us their car at exactly the right time, while Christine, Katja and Rahel helped us with the cleaning and packing for one entire day. Fredi, Walter, Marianne and others helped us move our furniture. If we were to list the names of everyone who lent us a hand back then, we could fill quite a number of pages. When we gave a table to Laendliheim (a retirement home in Basel), they let us stay with them for free the night before we set off. Annemarie loves swap deals of this sort: lunch in exchange for cleaning, a haircut in exchange for babysitting, a reading session in exchange for a flower bouquet. A nurse at Laendliheim had someone tell us she would be the first one to buy our book. Others have also encouraged us to write one, but we kept putting the thought off. We have even been asked by a publisher three times, but we wanted to finish our walk first before making a decision whether or not to get involved in a book project. While climbing the highest mountain, Mount Meron, of our hike in Israel, it suddenly dawned on us how we could imagine such a book project to fall into place. What was special about that moment was that there was a cloud warding off the searing heat, even though we had been told up north there was no way we could count on any clouds at this time of year. It seems God gave it to us at exactly the right time. His timing is just perfect.

A fact we also experienced with the 20th anniversary festivity of the Kehilat HaCarmel congregation in Haifa to which we had been invited several months back. So we couldn’t believe it when we reached the highest point of Mount Carmel the afternoon before the festivity and in time to attend it. During the event (see video), we were surprised to find ourselves sitting behind a Swiss lady who had wished to speak to someone about her faith in her native Swiss German. Nothing is impossible with God.

On Monday morning we will resume our tracks back on Mount Carmel and start the final stretch of our walk. We would like to leave you today with the following verses from Psalm 92, which were read at the festivity on Mount Carmel: “It is good to praise the LORD and make music to your name, O Most High. How great are your works, O LORD.”

Hanspeter and Annemarie

P.S. If you would like to receive a postcard from Jerusalem when we get there, please email us your address at Obrist@BaselJerusalem.info. Thanks.