The first time I went on a pastor’s familiarization tour, Masada was not included. In this pilgrimage I led, Masada was included but a flash flood spoiled our plans. The Israeli tour guide said they will try again the next day. We were all so glad the electric cable car system was restored to working order. I heard so much of the last stand of the Jewish resistance, I wanted to see it myself. The fortress does look formidable and impenetrable and unreachable on the top of a steep and bare hill. The Romans surrounded and besieged them till the resistance force took their own lives. The guide said the Israeli armed forces now pledged their loyalty at the site.
This was an interesting experience: a camel ride and some hospitality from Abram. Great idea and fun. We rode the camels to Abrams’ tent and there he welcomed us to a meal. We were blessed.
We visited the remains of an ancient site of a Qumran community in a semi arid landscape. It was cool but stark. It must have been hard to live in such circumstances where water concerns were predominant and this was reflected in the architecture and the space given for cisterns. The desert made me feel alone, forlorn, quiet, meditative and reflective.
We couldn’t sail on the Galilee lake on the scheduled day because of the strong winds. It wasn’t safe. That night we gathered and prayed that the unexpectedly cold weather would not sabotage the pilgrimage . The next morning it was not a particularly bright day but the sea of Galilee was sail safe and we were happy to get on board the boat. It was a very joyous moment as we saw it as God’s gracious gift and answer to our prayers. To rejoice with us the seagulls played and danced with us as we celebrated God’s faithfulness and love. A satisfying playful morning.
It was, and probably would remain, the coldest baptism I have ever done. We did it at Yardenit – the baptismal site of the Jordan River. In the days leading to the baptism the unusually cold weather led me to give a way out for the parents of the baptism candidates, You know the weather is extremely cold and you may be concerned for your children. Think about it, if you do not want to go ahead with it, let me know. We can do it back in Singapore, in warmer waters. Later I was told, The children want to go ahead with it. I had no choice then. So after donning swimming tights and baptism robes we took some photos, went down the steps into the river, and pastor Thomas and I baptized them in the fastest speed ever recorded. Remarkably, I was cold when outside, but in the waters I felt unusually “uncold”. This was in 13th December 2013 in the cold and holy land.