Today is another Ministry Day with Bishara, the Arab Christian from the college and the new Pastor of Yaffa Baptist Church. But first we have to move back to Villa Nazareth, the new, small, plush hotel in the centre of town by the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation. Well, someone has to! Another large party are coming in to Saint Margaret’s hostel and they need one of our rooms. May asked us if we would go and, despite the disruption and the breakup of our party, we are happy to oblige. We are in the same room as previously and the first thing Jim does it to have a coffee – good coffee is always available here. Jim then ducks out of the Ministry trip again, pleading some weak excuse and really just wanting to update his blogs and sort out his copious photos.
I wait for Bishara to pick me up in his minibus by Mary’s Well – built for the town after the church was built over the original one which blocked up this spring – before we pick up the rest of our party from the hostel. I get a few odd looks – I must look a bit funny on my own. We are off to Tel Aviv to give out free clothes and Christian literature to Sudanese refugees. First we go to Bishara’s office which is stacked full with Christian material, Bibles, DVDs and tracts in all sorts of different languages sent from America. We put these into boxes and load them into the minibus together with bags of clothes donated by local churches. We all just about get in the bus but are buried under assorted bags.
Tel Aviv is quite a long way away and it takes us about an hour and a half to get to Levinsky Park in the centre of the city. People gather here, stretched out on the grass chatting or just mooching about, not just Sudanese but other North Africa such as Eritreans as well. There are also Nepalese, Indian and Fillipinos and all sorts of other nationalities. They come to Israel to find work and if they do, it is always the most menial and lowest the Israelis don’t want to do – same as in London and numerous other places in the world. They are greatly in need. We start by walking all round the park praying. We then stand and pray together. I am glad I am not on my own here. Bishara has been doing this for years. We then set up the tables and unpack the literature and haul the bags of clothing over to try to arrange things are neatly as we can. We are then descended upon by hordes of men who scavenge through the clothes to find anything that might be useful. Within seconds the clothes are all over the place. We have fun with some of them and try to help them find what they need. One guy, after having found a warm coat, reckons all he needs is a hat to finish off the outfit. I find one for him and he puts it on in a jaunty fashion. All the guys around him are in fits of laughter.
Again it is only the men who talk to the men, and the women who talk to the women. We give out the tracts. We have some good conversations and I see Bishara opening the Scriptures up to one young man I had found some stuff for. Graham, from our group, talks and prays with another man. Many of the people who come to the stall want English Bibles. One chap having been given one also wants one for his wife who wants to divorce him and he is trying to impress her. Bishara has heard it all before. They want the English Bibles to sell. I try to give some tracks to some of the passing women but I don’t have a clue as to their language or nationality so just give them English ones. They just look at me blankly. A young Jewish guy hangs about with his little dog and wants to talk. He is sad at the way the park has become a haven of drugs and talks of a recent murder here.
After about two hours in this melee of mixed humanity, we pack up and leave. It is about 5:30 p.m. and we need to be back for dinner at 7.00 p.m. It is nearly dark and despite the powerful floodlighting, I’m pleased not to have to be here after dark. We leave the few left over clothes but reload the remaining boxes onto the bus and head out of Tel Aviv. The roads are surprisingly clear for a Friday evening but soon we are in the mother of all hold-ups. There are major roadworks and four lanes have to go into one lane – nightmare. Perhaps Jim was right not to come on this trip after all?
It is after 8:30 p.m. when we get back. Fortunately there no problem with dinner though. Despite being a 100% Arab – 90% Muslim and 10% Christian – Nazareth’s founders were Christians and Sunday is the day off. This is the start of the weekend and things are just beginning to liven up here at Villa Nazareth!