Friday, November 13, 2015


Here are some of my first impressions of my ten day trip (Bürgerreise) to Israel. Our group of citizens from Freiburg comprised 30 people. Booked on a Lufthansa flight from Frankfurt we arrived at our hotel in the evening of October 30, rather tired having lost one hour daylight due to the time zone shift. The Sea Net Hotel was located near by the Mediterranean Sea in a suburb of Tel Aviv close to Yafo in Hebrew that is called Jaffa in English.

Overlooking the Mediterranean Sea from Tel Yafo (Jaffa Hill)

View from the hill in the direction of Tel Aviv
During the time of Jesus Jaffa was known under its Greek name Ioppe. It is mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles 9 and 10:

Acts 9: 36-43: In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (in Greek her name is Dorcas); she was always doing good and helping the poor. About that time she became sick and died, and her body was washed and placed in an upstairs room. Lydda was near Joppa; so when the disciples heard that Peter was in Lydda, they sent two men to him and urged him, “Please come at once!” Peter went with them, and when he arrived he was taken upstairs to the room. All the widows stood around him, crying and showing him the robes and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was still with them. Peter sent them all out of the room; then he got down on his knees and prayed. Turning toward the dead woman, he said, “Tabitha, get up.” She opened her eyes, and seeing Peter she sat up. He took her by the hand and helped her to her feet. Then he called for the believers, especially the widows, and presented her to them alive. This became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord. Peter stayed in Joppa for some time with a tanner named Simon.

Simon the tanner's (Gerber in German) house

The steeple of St. Peter's Church from a distance

Pilgrims on their way to the church
Acts 10: 9-16: About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds. Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.” “Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.” The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven.

Inside the church above the high altar:
An angle is presenting "unclean" animals to Peter

Above the church entrance is the cross of Jerusalem as worn
by Godfrey of Bouillon during the First Crusade.
The five-fold cross represents variously the Five Wounds of Christ,
Christ and the four quarters of the world, or Christ and the four evangelists.
Acts 10: 17-20: While Peter was wondering about the meaning of the vision, the men sent by Cornelius found out where Simon’s house was and stopped at the gate. They called out, asking if Simon who was known as Peter was staying there. While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Simon, three men are looking for you. So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them.”

St. Peter finally understood that Christ did not die for the circumcised alone but for all mankind and went to see the pagan Centurion Cornelius and his Roman soldiers in Caesarea where he said:

Acts 10: 42-48: "[Jesus] commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God. Then Peter said, “Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptized with water. They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.

Our Israeli guide Jonathan is telling us: Napoleon was here

Napoleon not only was in Egypt to admire the pyramids but went on along the Mediterranean coast besieging Jaffa from March 3 to 7, 1799. When he sent messengers brusquely telling the city of his ultimatum to surrender they were arrested, tortured, castrated and decapitated, and their heads impaled on the city walls. This harsh treatment led Napoleon, when the city fell, to allow his soldiers two days and nights of slaughter and rape. Napoleon's deputy General Moit reported about France's "official" revenge:

On 10 March 1799 in the afternoon, the prisoners of Jaffa were marched off in the midst of a vast square phalanx formed by the troops of General Bonaparte. The Turks, walking along in total disorder, had already guessed their fate and appeared not even to shed any tears... When they finally arrived in the sand dunes to the south-west of Jaffa, they were ordered to halt beside a pool of yellowish water. The officer commanding the troops then divided the mass of prisoners into small groups, who were led off to several different points and shot... Finally, of all the prisoners there only remained those who were beside the pool of water. Our soldiers had used up their cartridges, so there was nothing to be done but to dispatch them with bayonets and knives. ... The result ... was a terrible pyramid of dead and dying bodies dripping blood and the bodies of those already dead had to be pulled away so as to finish off those unfortunate beings who, concealed under this awful and terrible wall of bodies, had not yet been struck down.

Yafo's harbor

Yafo's distinctive clock-tower was built in 1906
honoring Abdul Hamid II, the 34th Sultan of the Ottoman Empire

Photo of the Grand Saraya (governor's) Palace built in 1890.
The Irgun bombed the building in 1948 killing 21 civilians

Reminder of the British mandate over Palestine:
A run-down Royal Postbox cast in far away London

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