hello from israel!

Hello to all! Please pass this message along to others who may enjoy reading it!

Well, we've had an adventurous time so far. We flew out of Cincy a week ago and landed in Atlanta then to Paris. The Paris airport was CRAZY!!! Then safely on to Amman, Jordan, where we arrived late at night.

Jordan was interesting. Very foreign feeling. We saw some places -- we'll show you photos -- and we stood on a hill where David had Uriah the Hittite killed. Then we drove south the next day toward the lost city of Petra. Amazing! Photos galore!!! From there we went back to Amman for the night and the next day crossed over into Israel. That was an adventure! Security was tight but we got through with less interrogation than Kelly anticipated!

We saw the Old Testament city of Jericho ruins. Then an unexpected whirlwind tour as we ascended through the Judean desert and up into the Mt. of Olives. There before us was Jerusalem! (Remind us to tell you about the song!) What a view!!! We worked out way down the hill, down the path of triumphal entry (Palm Sunday), stopping at the Garden of Gethsemane and then ascending to Stephen's Gate (woo hoo) into the old city of Jerusalem.

The city was overwhelming at first -- not quite the spiritual quest we envisioned. A modern day marketplace atmosphere with lots of people hawking their wares at us! We went on the Via Delorosa and ended up at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. That church is on the location where they say Jesus' tomb was located. Kelly didn't realize it's also the area where He was crucified. Can we say gaudy?! Yes, it was a bit sad to see the different areas of the huge church where Christian sects each had their place to decorate with many tributes, incense, etc. By the end of the night, we were sort of disappointed. But Kelly had this thought hit her: "Blessed are those who believe and yet do not see." Kelly was expecting to "see" something or to touch something Jesus had touched. (Thomas the apostle was her kind of guy!) But then she realized that her whole life she's had this faith and has not seen. Why should being in this place be any different?

Fortunately, the next day was a brighter, more spiritual side to the city. We saw the Western Wall and each got to pray there and place a prayer in its cracks. We saw the Temple Mount with the famous Dome of the Rock on it. (They currently don't let people in.) We also saw the stones that fell when Romans attacked the temple and destroyed it in 70 AD. We also saw the steps up to the entrance and exit of the temple where Jesus would've walked. (Kelly got to step where He had stepped!!) We had a wonderful time in the Jewish quarter of town. Then headed down to the old city of David (not currently in the walls but where Jerusalem used to be.) Steve went with a group through King Hezekiah's water tunnel. Kelly opted out with a few others because of claustrophobia. Steve was the only manly man to walk it barefoot. This tunnel was a person wide and dark and had water at times up to his waist. Unfortunately, this was a very chilly evening. So he sloshed around the rest of the night with the others, all of them with chattering teeth. We ended the night going through the rabbinical tunnel. This was built under where the Muslims currently live. It was built to go along the entire length of the western wall where the temple had been.

Friday we went to Bethlehem. First we saw a fortress King Herod (the guy who killed the babies when Jesus was born) built called the Herodium. It overlooked Bethlehem -- pretty close for a guy searching to kill the messiah. We went into Bethlehem and saw the Church of the Nativity. Then we went into a massive store and got many gifts.

Today was our free day. And boy have we used it to the fullest. From 9:00 to 12:30 in the morning, this is what we did: walked the entire city outside the walls, stopping at Schindler's grave, the church dedicated to the upper room and one dedicated to Mary, went down into the Kidron Valley and saw Zechariah and Absalom's tombs, went back up the Mt. of Olives (just to see the view again!) and then back down to continue around the wall, passing through the Muslim cemetary (we'll explain it later) and on around back to our hotel. We would love to know how many miles that was!

The hotel here in Jerusalem is MUCH better than the two in Jordan. Very nice for a four-night stay. The food here is good. In Jordan it was very Mediterranean. There are street hagglers at every stop, trying to sell us anything and everything. It is also neat to see the various people -- Muslim, Orthodox Jews in their black hats and clothing, etc. There are military, both Palestinian and Israeli with their guns. They've borded our bus at checkpoints to make sure we look OK. But all in all, we feel very safe. We've had such peaceful moments.

We have one full week left. Next week we head to the Dead Sea and Galilee areas. And then on to Paris where we hear it's snowing now. Brrr. We're having fun, but we wish you could be here to see it too. Love to all!

Steve and Kelly!