Monday, January 11, 2010

My Three Runs Around Jerusalem

by Steve Ray on January 11, 2010

IMG_6010First Run on First Day:
Arrived at 3:30 AM and got to bed at 7:00 AM Monday. Got up in the afternoon and took a run to get back in the swing of things and acclimated. If I run the first two days it seems like I adjust better and get over jet lag sooner. Anyway, here is the link to my run at EveryTrail.

James Hetzel from www.CatholicCompany.com joined us here today. I am taking him to Bethlehem tomorrow to check out the purchasing and shipping of olive wood products to the US to help the Christians here in the Holy Land. He and I will run around the walls of Jerusalem before leaving for Bethlehem.

IMG_6013Janet and I also have dinner with a Palestinian Christian family tomorrow for lunch. Our group arrives on Thursday and I am again blessed to show this incredible land to a new group of excited pilgrims. I will be posting daily videos here. Busy times!

Pictures taken with my iPhone (more at EveryTrail): Top: Hassidic Jews walking through Mea Shearim, the Orthodox Jewish neighborhood; Below: One of many Muslim mosques with the lit up minaret where the muezzin calls out the Islamic prayers five times a day — including waking us up at 4 AM.

IMG_6019Second Run with James Hetzel on Tuesday:
James Hetzel is the president of www.CatholicStore.com and he came to Israel to join us on our pilgrimage. He came early so I thought he would like a quick running tour of Jerusalem to get him oriented.

We took off Tuesday morning around the Old City walls to give him a preview of what we will see on the pilgrimage. It also gave him an overview of the city so he can walk around on his own later today and tomorrow.

screen-capture-1We ran from the Notre Dame Center where we are staying an around the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem. It is about 2.6 miles. He decided to stop at the Notre Dame on the way back around.

I decided to go another mile and a half to explore the new outdoor Mamilla Mall.

Great weather, like a nice fall day in Michigan.

You can see the run here on EveryTrail along with more pictures.

Third Run the Other Way Around with Pictures of Each Gate
Here is the link to Wednesday morning’s run heading north around the Muslim area first. Beautiful day, perfect for running. Now we go to Bethlehem to meet friends, take care of some business and to plant an olive tree on a little piece of land I am buying :-)

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“Rabbi, I can see the coastline!”

by Steve Ray on January 11, 2010

I cannot describe the sensation I feel every time we look out the window and see the coastline of Israel from the window of the plane. Yeah, we are exhausted — 8 hours from Detroit to Amsterdam, 3 hours layover, and 4.5 hours from Amsterdam to Tel Aviv. Some who travel with us come from California, Texas or other states which add even more hours and layovers to their flights.

IMG_6006Yet, even though our eyelids are at half mast and our feet a bit swollen, the excitement of descending over the Mediterranean Sea with the land of Israel appearing below is beyond words. Janet and I have had this experience over 65 times but it never fails to thrill us.

I will never forget the first time our family landed here in 1995 a year after converting to the Catholic Church. It was the rustic old airport (gone now, rest its ugly soul). With my 40 pound backpack on my back I stepped off the plane, descended down the steps to the tarmac and fell to the ground sobbing and kissed the blacktop. I WAS IN THE HOLY LAND LAND — ISRAEL!

I was overwhelmed with emotion after reading the Bible for so many years and loving God and his land finally — I was here! The thrill has not abated after almost 70 visits.

Once I struck up an interesting conversation with a Rabbi named Friedman. He and I talked all the way from Amsterdam to Israel. He was suspicious of me at first — me being a gentile and all — but after he learned how much I loved the Jewish people and their Bible he opened up. He talked to me about the Psalms and the Law. He was insightful beyond description. This old Jew with his wagging beard and lively eyes thrilled me.

Toward the end of our trip I looked out the window, saw the shoreline and said, “Rabbi, I can see the coastline; there’s Israel!” He broke into loud sobbing, almost uncontrollably.

IMG_6007I said, “Rabbi, is this the first time you have come here?” Through his tears he said, “No, I have been here many times; but it is the land our Our God!” I will never forget that. I visited him in the US several times after that experience. He taught me many things about God and the land of Israel — and, unknown to him, about who I was as a Catholic.

It is now in the middle of the night — 1:30 PM Israel time — and we can now see the lights forming a crooked line along the sea as we approach the airport. We will soon arrive at the new and very modern Ben Gurion Airport, so much easier and convenient than the old place. I am already excited — I will soon be walking on the very ground where God walked. I will be opening doors of wonder to pilgrims who will be experiencing this land for the first time.

The Patriarchs and Prophets walked here. The Kings and Priests and Warriors of Israel lived here. Mary and Jesus traversed on the ground my own feet will touch. The Apostles and Apostolic Fathers walked here and some died as martyrs here. We will celebrate Mass at their sites.

I will go running each day (and put up several videos so you can enjoy the land too) in the very places where they lived, prophesied and died. Nothing is like this! I am proud to be Catholic, to love the Jewish people — our elder brothers in the faith — and the Palestinian Christians and religious orders like the Franciscans who have preserved these holy sites through the centuries against much opposition and against all odds. How could I NOT come here to support and encourage them!

Thanks be to God as tears well up in my eyes again — for the almost 70th time!

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What If Your Parents Were Morons?

by Steve Ray on January 11, 2010

On the first day of school, young Lucy took her seat in science class. The teacher began to explain why there was no God and why she was an atheist. The students all listened carefully. At the end of the class the teacher asked how many of the children wanted to be atheists like her.

Classroom.jpgNot wanting to contradict the new teacher all the students raised their hands — except Lucy. The teacher said, “Lucy, why didn’t you raise your hand?” Lucy responded, “Because I am not an atheist and never will be. I am a Christian.”

The teacher was perturbed and said, “Why are you a Christian?” Lucy answered, “My mother is intelligent and she is a Christian; my father is very intelligent and he is a Christian — so I am a Christian too.”

The teacher was angry now and asked, “That is ridiculous. If your mother was a moron and your father was a moron, what would you be then?”

Lucy thought for a moment and then said, “I’d probably be an atheist!”

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