This was our last day of this most magnificent trip. Wednesday morning, we packed up and left the Leonardo Hotel in Eilat. Eilat, if you remember, was a coastal town on the Red (or Reed) Sea. We were at the southernmost end of Israel and now began the long drive back to Tel Aviv where David Ben Gurion Airport is located.
We started our day in Timnah Park in the Negev Desert where there is a full scale model of the Tabernacle. The tabernacle site had some damage from a flash flood in October that they are still working on but for the most part, everything was intact. As odd as it may seem, the desert only gets about four inches of rain a year but because the terrain is so steep the rain can come gushing down and actually cut big gullies or wadis, as the Israeli would define it, into the mountainside. These wadis can build up a force that comes so fast it, can catch people unaware and drown them. Inside the tabernacle courtyard, we saw the different locations for men, women, and Levites and priests. I was able to not just picture the tabernacle in my mind but actually walk through the process as it was carried out on the Sabbath. Inside the tabernacle is the "Table of Shewbread," the "Menorah," the "Alter of Incense," and inside the "Holy of Holies" is the "Ark of the Covenant." Such an informative sight!
Some of the places we saw along the way were King Solomon's Pillars and the Ancient Cooper Mines used by King David. In the Old Testament, copper represents judgement. Copper was used to cover the bases of the five pillars that held the front of the tabernacle up. As we traveled up route 90, we were going through the "Wilderness of Sin." Exodus 16:1 says, "And they took their journey from Elim, and all the congregation of the children of Israel came unto the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after their departing out of the land of Egypt." Even on the last day, were seeing locations that made the Bible come alive right before our eyes. The land was harsh and God sustained them there by sending food, water, and providing shelter...yet they still complained.
We left there and kept working our way to Tel Aviv. Some interesting places along the way were Kiryat Gat which was named for "Gath" and became one of the five largest cities of the Philistines. It was in this area that Samson went chasing after a Philistine girl by the name of Delilah. She eventually learned the secret of his strength and gave that information to his enemies. Samson became a slave, had his eyes gouged out, and became a laughingstock in the eyes of the world. But in the end, God granted his request to bring his strength back one more time so he could deal with the Philistines...turned out pretty good don't you think?
Continuing north, we entered the Valley of Elah. Any guesses on what famous battle took place here? This was the place where David fought Goliath. You can read the account in 1 Samuel 21 and how David selected five smooth stones, took what God equipped him with and slew Goliath before the eyes of the world. I had to go and get a stone from the Valley of Elah. One never knows when that may come in handy. It seems like there is always a Goliath lurking around wanting to challenge our relationship with God.
We had a farewell dinner at a Yemeni restaurant in Tel Aviv and headed to the airport. Bidding farewell to Assher and Avi was kind of sad but I believe we were ready to get the last leg of the trip underway. Going through Israeli security can be time consuming. They are very thorough and diligent in their process and I am very thankful for that. El Al is one of the few airlines who have had zero incidents and they plan to keep it that way. After making it through and getting to the gate, we had an 11:45 p.m. departure. The flight itself was about 12 hours and we picked up 7 hours. That all works out to us landing in New York at about 6:00 a.m. We got on a 10:15 a.m. flight from New York to Charlotte and arrived from Charlotte in Charleston at around 3:00 p.m. So it has been about 48 hours since we have rested. I believe everyone is looking forward to being in their own home tonight. Enjoy your coffee...more to come.
Ahava you all,
Gary W. Hall, Pastor of Mt. Olivet Baptist Church.