People regularly ask me how I have so many crazy experiences. I tell them that God wants me to give others an appreciation for their “normal” lives. Other times, I bring it upon myself. One thing is for sure: Those who know me well are used to “unusual” things happening when I’m around. Today, our fourth day in Israel, would be no different.
My two sons, Jeff and Andy, and Andy’s wife Kristen and I were finding Tel Aviv to be mega-expensive. A lunch of sandwiches ran around $100, and breakfast was more than that. Ash trays were found on all restaurant tables, as smokers appeared to be the norm. Fortunately, almost everyone we met spoke some English, and street signs typically were marked in three languages: Hebrew, Greek and English. Our GPS was scattered, and most times the four of us received different signals as to how to navigate the roads. We would pick one and hope for the best. Sometimes, that worked in our favor. Sometimes, not.
Tour guides had suggested we visit Hafai which boasted of exquisite gardens, temples and beaches. Only an hour’s drive away, we would find Bahá’í Gardens, 19 geometric terraces around a shrine located near Mount Carmel, the site where Elijah confronted the false prophets of Baal, and one we wanted to see. Without researching further, we left Tel Aviv around noon, headed towards the Old Testament site. I was excited. As one who had stood against false prophets and Jezebel, brought fire from Heaven and was taken to Heaven alive, Elijah is one of my favorite Old Testament characters.
At the garden entrance, signs warned us that this was a holy place. No gum-chewing, cell phones or loud voices were allowed out of reverence for this place. A dress code was strictly enforced, and since my daughter-in-law Kristin’s shorts did not cover her knees, we were denied entrance. Not to worry. Andy, her husband and my son, had swim trunks in the car. The fact that he is an XL and she is a size-four would not dissuade us from entering. Kristen’s flowery, poofy swim trunks, rolled several times over at the waist, seemed to satisfy the guard.
We hustled towards the temple, expecting to see signs informing us about Elijah’s experience. Once there, we were told the sacred temple was closed. No reason given. We could come back another time when it would reopen.
On our way out of the gate, I asked the attendant to explain what we had just seen. That’s when she shared that we were on holy ground in reverence to the Bahá’í faith. (And that had to do with Elijah…how?) Well, it didn’t. It had to do with a “oneness” religion in which we are all created alike in love. How we had managed to make a day out of this was anyone’s guess! All I knew was that we certainly were not involved in anything that had to do with Christianity or God’s prophet.
So much for listening to the guide who convinced this was a “must see.”
Tomorrow, however, we told each other, we would visit sites related to Jesus and no one else. We just did not anticipate the dangers ahead in making that happen.