Travel and First Day
We got in to Tel Aviv around 10:30pm last night with little problems but little sleep on our flights from Houston to Istanbul and on to Tel Aviv. The airport in Istanbul was very busy and we had a long bus ride from the plane to the terminal to catch our connecting flight. The Turks are not very well organized.
Tel Aviv, the name is a combination of the old (Tel=an old archeological mound with many layers of history/civilizations) and new (Aviv=Spring or new life). And that is definitely the case. It is a modern new city that was started in 1909 by a German Jewish settler, Elle Weiss, with 6 kids in the sand dunes not far from the Mediterranean Sea. Our hotel is the Dan Panorama and it is a nice, clean modern hotel with a view of the Sea. Unfortunately, where we are there are only rocks and no beach.
The biblical town of Joppa is today known as Jaffa. This was the main port of the coast before the Israelis constructed the ports of Haifa and Ashdod. The modern city of Tel Aviv was founded on the outskirts of Jaffa in 1909 and today it encompasses the ancient city. Tel Aviv means “the Hill of Spring” and it is the same name as the city of a settlement in Babylon during the Exile (Ezek 3:15). Today the Tel Aviv area is the largest metropolitan area in Israel.
We went to Independence Hall, where we heard the story of the birth of Israel. The first mayor of Tel Aviv, Michael Dizengoff, made an art gallery in the first floor of his house in honor of his wife, a patron of the arts. In the gallery where independence was declared, we saw the speech by David Ben Gurion, the first Prime Minister of Israel, where he declared Israel as a sovereign state. Ben Gurion was very wise and took a very calculated risk in declaring the new state of Israel just before the British left. The story of how the Jews were able to defend themselves from (5-7) different Arab states is a story of God’s amazing protection of Israel. Ben Gurion knew that it had been 2000 years since Israel was a nation and that this was the best chance to get the nation together again and he was not going to waste the opportunity. Despite great odds against them, the Israelites prevailed as our guide explained that ben Gurion knew that the Arabs were not nearly as motivated as the Jews were because the Jews were defending their homeland and also that the Arab military leaders treated their common soldiers very badly so that when fighting became difficult, the Arabs did not have the will to fight like the Israelites. The war for independence lasted from Nov 1947 to June 1949. A key for the war was getting enough bullets as the British would not let the Jews have guns or ammunition under the laws of the protectorate. We went to the clandestine ammunition factory where the Jews asked a kibbutz of young people to relocate and take on a very secretive mission which 45 of the 75 were involved. The other 30 did not know that they were making 9 mm bullets underground in the relocated kibbutz next to a British military post. The leader of the Jewish “haggan” sp? Said that the best way to operate a secret group is under the nose of the British. It was an amazing story and speaks to the Jewish ingenuity as they thought out many ways to do this dangerous job (if they were found out, they would either be killed or sent to prison for life). One unique thing is that they secretly wired the munitions factory to the nearby train station’s grid, that was paid for by the British. There is a sign in the factory thanking the British for “funding” their efforts.
We also went to the Weismann Institute and learned about the first President of Israel, Chaim Weismann. He was a brilliant inventor and statesman. They claimed that because Weismann allowed the British to use his patented process to make acetone out of bacteria eating acorns/corn that allowed the Brits to make nitroglycerin for the WW1 effort, that Lord Balfour made the Balfour Resolution of 1917 that started the process of making a Jewish nation.
One of the amazing aspects of the day was to see how Israel has been able to push back the desert up to 100 miles by irrigation and good agriculture practices.
We finally went to the Elah Valley where David slew Goliath. It was really awe-inspiring to see how the Philistines would come up from the coast and get on the hill to challenge the Jews coming from around Jerusalem. You could easily imagine David charging Goliath and then see the Philistines running over the hills trying to escape the Jews.. He also pointed out the new archeological dig (2011) that unearthed the two gates mentioned in 1 Sam 17:52. All the other cities in Israel only had one gate and many thought that the biblical account was wrong because it said gates, but they unearthed this site that is overlooking the valley where David slew Goliath. This was a wonderful way to cap off the day.
I can see in my mind much more vividly the stories of Peter in Joppa and David vs Goliath and also how God has protected the Jews to this day.
Tel Azekah and Elah Valley
The Brook Elah is famous for the five stones it contributed to the young slinger, David. Some surmise that David chose five stones instead of the one needed in case he needed to face Goliath’s four brothers.
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