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Saturday 13 October: CONGAS AND KEBABS

Messianic Jewish Worship

Today we are up bright and early after a really good night’s sleep at Villa Nazareth. After an excellent breakfast we take the short walk from Villa Nazareth to Mary’s Well to wait for the luxury 15 seater coach our group has been using to come and pick us up. Today we are going back to Mount Carmel to worship with the Messianic Jewish Congregation that meet there. We are really looking forward to this.

We have been told to be at May’s Well by 9.15 am. because the coach is picking us up first and then driving up to Saint Margaret’s to pick up the rest of our group. We have to leave in good time because we have been told there will be a large congregation and we want to get good seats. We sit on the wall by Mary’s Well in the blazing hot sunshine. Half an hour later we are still waiting? We hope the bus has gone up to Saint Margaret’s first. We wonder if they have forgotten us now that we are staying down at Villa Nazareth? Perhaps they are half way to Mount Carmel already?

Finally our luxury coach arrives … except it isn’t our luxury coach … it is the beat up old one we used to go to the West Bank? Everyone is pleased to see us and we are pleased to see everyone. We drive back to Mount Carmel and eventually find our way to the impressive suite of buildings that belong to the Messianic Jewish Congregation that meet on Mount Camel. The worship space is equally impressive and we are made very welcome. Julia and I have arranged to meet an old friend of ours, Jo Blower, who is studying for a Masters Degree at Haifa University. She was a member of our church in Birmingham when we were there but has been in Israel for 4 years now. She worships regularly with this Congregation but usually attends the Hebrew speaking service on a Saturday afternoon. We find seats in the front row. I ask Jo if it is o.k. to sit here. She laughs and warns me that sitting where we are there is a real danger that we might get pulled into the conga. I haven’t got a clue what she is on about until the worship starts.

The worship area is packed, and the worship is very lively with a good music group leading us in some lively worship songs. There are two very good female dancers who also take part making good use of tambourines and flags and capes. It is very charismatic and the joy is infectious. About 20 minutes into the worship the two dancers grab hold of all the children in the congregation … and some more adults … and off they go dancing round and across the platform area conga style. I now understand what Jo was on about. The kids absolutely love it and it is great fun to watch as well. We worship for an hour or so … mostly through the use of song but with some prayer inserted as well. There is quite bit of information sharing before the children go out to their groups, and there is some more singing before we get to the preaching. There are a lot of Russian Jews in this particular congregation so the sermon is in Russian, and a lady translates it into Hebrew, and it is also translated into English via headphones for us English speakers. The sermon lasts 45 minutes and is on the theme of ‘booths’ (since it is the end of the Feast of Tabernacles). It takes the preacher 20 minutes to actually get to any passage of scripture … and then he refers to virtually every reference to ‘booths’ in the Bible. It is a rather a complex sermon but at the end of it the preacher issues an altar call and quite a lot of people come forward for prayer. The whole service lasts two and a half hours.

After the service our group rush to our bus because they want to go to see Elijah’s cave … the cave we tried to see the other day but it was shut. Julia tries to tell them that there is no need to rush because it will be shut between 1.00 p.m. and 3.00 p.m. but nobody seems to hear what she is saying. We skip the visit to the cave and take Jo out for lunch instead. We haven’t see her for ages and we want to spend some time with her. We have always liked and admired her. As a young person she had something about her, a devotion, a dedication to Christ, that we found both attractive and challenging. It is still there, and it is good to spend time together over lunch at a nearby restaurant.

We rejoin our group after lunch when they come to meet us by the local market. They are pretty fed up. Elijah’s cave was shut when they got there and they had to sit around and wait for it to open until 3.00 p.m. We drive up to the Carmelite Monastery again because David and Margie weren’t with us last time we came. Our Arab bus driver hasn’t been too cooperative today, and May has found it quite difficult communicating with him. We want to drop Jo off near the university but May is not too sure how he will react. Fortunately Jo speaks good Hebrew and soon has our driver eating out of her hand.

When we get back to Nazareth we leave our group at Saint Margaret’s and May drops us off back at Villa Nazareth. We have a rest and then go up to the roof top restaurant for dinner. We are offered a choice … chicken or kebabs? ‘Kebabs!’ we both cry in joyful unison. And I have a glass of red wine as well to celebrate!

Jim Binney

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