Monday, March 7, 2005

Exciting Events in Lebanon

by Steve Ray on March 7, 2005

Protests in Beirut
Another eventful day in Lebanon, both politically and with our video series. First, the political

– if you have been watching the news you will see a massive protest against the Syrians occupying Lebanon. The Syrians were instrumental in the assassination of the former Prime Minister Harirri and his picture is posted everywhere! We drove by the spot the bomb blew and you would NOT believe the devastation. A 10 story hotel ripped to shreds like smashed cardboard box. Cars burned to a crisp. They turned the man into a martyr and ignited a protest I doubt they will quench.

The city center, right next to the Maronite Catholic cathedral where we went to Mass this morning has been pouring over with people waving flags and chanting. Most of the them are Christians, though many thousands of Muslims are joining them. They are demanding the immediate withdrawal of Syrian troops and secret agents who spy on them. Very exciting times here.

Hezbollah and the Muslim South
We visited the south of Lebanon today and it seems a different story there. Every building and street sign is covered with pictures and propaganda for Hezbollah. They are not so willing to join the throng of freedom fighters but many of them support the intervention of Syria. It will be interesting to see if freedom can prevail here in the weeks ahead. It is exciting being in the middle of the Middle East’s continued political turmoil and struggle for democracy and freedom. Many will try to divide Lebanon, pitting Christian and Muslim but I hope they stick together and can obtain freedom and democracy.

Beeping all Night Long
Having fallen asleep exhausted last night we were suddenly awakened with blaring sirens, horns and shouting. I jumped out of bed in my undies and ran to the deck overlooking the main street. Protesters where jamming the streets singing and shouting slogans of freedom. It was very moving to watch. They woke us up at 11:30 PM and again at 2 AM as they passed by our hotel.

Discovering Beirut:
Saturday, March 5 2005: We explored Beirut

– not as much to see as in other capital cities in Middle Eastern countries but we visited the Maronite Catholic Church of St. George and got our bearings in this new country. We talked with a lot of people and tried to understand everything.

We visited amazing grottos, underground caves that were so magnificent they defy description. One was like the caves of Gollum in the Hobbit where we had to duck as traveled through them in a small boat. Stalactites and stalagmites and the dripping water gave it an eerie feel. From the depths of caves we ascended by cable car up to Harissa which is a Christian with a stunning Marian shrine looking out over Beirut. When I get back and have more time I will post the picture which is quite beautiful.

Looking for Elijah — Exciting Work on our Footprints of God (FOG) videos
Sunday, March 6 2005: But now for the findings and work for our FOG video series. Today we started out with Mass at St. George’s Maronite Catholic Church. It was all in Arabic but we used our Magnificat. Then we went to the South which is mainly Muslim. We saw Hezbollah signs and monuments to suicide bombers along the way. My goal was to find Zarephath where Elijah stayed with the widow in 1 Kings 17. Here he shows himself as a type of Christ by making miraculous bread and raising the dead. Jesus even went up to this area, probably Zarephath, during his ministry (Matthew 15:21ff). There is a lot to tell about this story and what it means to us as Catholics, but I will save that for the video.

We discovered the area historians believe is the place visited by Elijah. There are many caves and tombs cared into the rock mountain and people still live there today in houses probably very similar to the one Elijah stayed in

– though presumably without the satellite dishes on their roofs.

We got great footage of the site and then went to the Mediterranean shore where Elijah and Jesus must have walked. Footage of me walking along the rocks will suit the video well. We visited the ancient cities of Tyre and Sidon and think some of the footage will work very well.

Searching for History related to David and Solomon
Then up the mountains to the Tomb of Hiram. He was the king of Tyre who is mentioned repeatedly in the Old Testament. He is the one who built David’s palace and whom Solomon contracted with to cut and deliver the Cedars of Lebanon for the building of the Temple in Jerusalem. It shows again the truth of biblical history and I just love discovering sites like this! Some of this footage will be great for the David video which is the next one on the assembly line. We also got video footage of a Phoenician temple where they worshipped Astarte, a fertilitiy goddess very seductive to the Israelites. We will use this in Elijah and Elisha, Conscience of the Kingdom.

After this long day we ate mezza, Lebanese salads and grilled meats and then crashed into bed. Tomorrow we head north into the mountains to find the Cedars of Lebanon. There are several groves but we want the ones high in the mountains called The Cedars of the Lord. More about that in the next day or two. On Tuesday we pass through the Island of Cyrus on our way to Israel. Keep us in your prayers.


Stuck in Amsterdam — again!

by Steve Ray on March 7, 2005

Stuck in Amsterdam — twice! The first time because our travel agent majorly screwed up our tickets and now a few hours later because snow is dumping on Amsterdam for the first time like this in 20 years — over 14 inches so far. The Schiffel airport is not prepared for this blizzard, unlike Detroit.

Every flight is delayed and many cancelled. Our flight to Beirut is delayed again and we sit and wait. Snow continues to dump on the airport.

Earlier we were informed we did not have valid tickets — though the travel agent lady assured us we did. After frustratingly waiting and moving from one desk to another we were told we would need to buy new tickets here in Amsterdam to the tune of €8,000 (Euro) which equates to over $10,000. In the end we told them our tickets had been lost and they printed new ones for a replacement fee of only €65 (roughly $90).

So, blessed be God, we were free to fly — until the snow began to blow!

Now we sit in the first snowstorm like this here in 20 years wondering if we will spend the night in the KLM lounge. Should we rush to secure a room in a hotel before they quickly disappear or hope to be one of the lucky ones to get out of Amsterdam?

Update 4 hours later: After de-icing the plane, we finally flew into the face of the blizzard and are now high over Germany on our way to Beirut. Left 4 hours late and should arrive at 4:30 AM. We will be up bright and early since we have much to explore.