Friday, April 18, 2014

The Easter Story: In Real Life

One of the most popular posts on Apricots Today is The Christmas Story: In Real Life. In our many trips to Israel while living in the Middle East, we took a vast collection of pictures relating to the Easter story as well. Enjoy this modern day walk through the Easter events. 

{scripture taken from The Message}

The Royal Welcome {Matthew 21:1-11}

When they neared Jerusalem, having arrived at Bethphage on Mount Olives, Jesus sent two disciples with these instructions: “Go over to the village across from you. You’ll find a donkey tethered there, her colt with her. Untie her and bring them to me.

Donkeys can still be seen today on streets in the cities and villages.

The disciples went and did exactly what Jesus told them to do. They led the donkey and colt out, laid some of their clothes on them, and Jesus mounted. Nearly all the people in the crowd threw their garments down on the road, giving him a royal welcome. Others cut branches from the trees and threw them down as a welcome mat. Crowds went ahead and crowds followed, all of them calling out, “Hosanna to David’s son!” “Blessed is he who comes in God’s name!” “Hosanna in highest heaven!”

Palm trees cover the landscape today as well.

The Last Supper {Matthew 26:17-19, 26-30}

On the first of the Days of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Where do you want us to prepare your Passover meal?”
He said, “Enter the city. Go up to a certain man and say, ‘The Teacher says, My time is near. I and my disciples plan to celebrate the Passover meal at your house.’” The disciples followed Jesus’ instructions to the letter, and prepared the Passover meal.

Church built on the site of the Last Supper location.
During the meal, Jesus took and blessed the bread, broke it, and gave it to his disciples:
Take, eat.
This is my body.
Taking the cup and thanking God, he gave it to them:
Drink this, all of you.
This is my blood,
God’s new covenant poured out for many people
    for the forgiveness of sins.
“I’ll not be drinking wine from this cup again until that new day when I’ll drink with you in the kingdom of my Father.”

Last Supper, 1896 work by Pascal Dagnan-Bouveret
They sang a hymn and went directly to Mount Olives.

Standing near the Last Supper site looking toward the Mt. of Olives. Tombs of the Prophets are on the bottom right. The golden domes on the hill are the Russian Chapel of the Ascension.

Gethsemane {Matthew 26: 36-39}
Then Jesus went with them to a garden called Gethsemane and told his disciples, “Stay here while I go over there and pray.” Taking along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he plunged into an agonizing sorrow. Then he said, “This sorrow is crushing my life out. Stay here and keep vigil with me.”
Going a little ahead, he fell on his face, praying, “My Father, if there is any way, get me out of this. But please, not what I want. You, what do you want?”

The garden of Gethsemane where some olive trees are estimated to be 2000 years old.

The Crucifixion {Matthew 27:27-56}

The soldiers assigned to the governor took Jesus into the governor’s palace and got the entire brigade together for some fun. They stripped him and dressed him in a red toga. They plaited a crown from branches of a thornbush and set it on his head. They put a stick in his right hand for a scepter. Then they knelt before him in mocking reverence: “Bravo, King of the Jews!” they said. “Bravo!” Then they spit on him and hit him on the head with the stick. When they had had their fun, they took off the toga and put his own clothes back on him. Then they proceeded out to the crucifixion.

The Chapel of Flagellation believed to be where Jesus was handed the cross and flogged.

Along the way they came on a man from Cyrene named Simon and made him carry Jesus’ cross.

The corner on the Via Dolorosa (The Way of Sorrows) where Simon took the cross.
Arriving at Golgotha, the place they call “Skull Hill,” they offered him a mild painkiller (a mixture of wine and myrrh), but when he tasted it he wouldn’t drink it.

You can see the skull in the side of the hill outside the city walls today. This hill is behind a modern day bus depot!

After they had finished nailing him to the cross and were waiting for him to die, they whiled away the time by throwing dice for his clothes. Above his head they had posted the criminal charge against him: this is jesus, the king of the jews. Along with him, they also crucified two criminals, one to his right, the other to his left. People passing along the road jeered, shaking their heads in mock lament: “You bragged that you could tear down the Temple and then rebuild it in three days—so show us your stuff! Save yourself! If you’re really God’s Son, come down from that cross!”
The high priests, along with the religion scholars and leaders, were right there mixing it up with the rest of them, having a great time poking fun at him: “He saved others—he can’t save himself! King of Israel, is he? Then let him get down from that cross. We’ll all become believers then! He was so sure of God—well, let him rescue his ‘Son’ now—if he wants him! He did claim to be God’s Son, didn’t he?” Even the two criminals crucified next to him joined in the mockery.

Religious scholars spend time studying near the site of the Temple today.

From noon to three, the whole earth was dark. Around midafternoon Jesus groaned out of the depths, crying loudly, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”
Some bystanders who heard him said, “He’s calling for Elijah.” One of them ran and got a sponge soaked in sour wine and lifted it on a stick so he could drink. The others joked, “Don’t be in such a hurry. Let’s see if Elijah comes and saves him.”
But Jesus, again crying out loudly, breathed his last.
At that moment, the Temple curtain was ripped in two, top to bottom. There was an earthquake, and rocks were split in pieces. What’s more, tombs were opened up, and many bodies of believers asleep in their graves were raised. (After Jesus’ resurrection, they left the tombs, entered the holy city, and appeared to many.)

Tombs surrounding the old city. Temple Mount in the background.

The captain of the guard and those with him, when they saw the earthquake and everything else that was happening, were scared to death. They said, “This has to be the Son of God!”
There were also quite a few women watching from a distance, women who had followed Jesus from Galilee in order to serve him. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the Zebedee brothers.

The Tomb {Matthew 27:57-66}
Late in the afternoon a wealthy man from Arimathea, a disciple of Jesus, arrived. His name was Joseph. He went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. Pilate granted his request. Joseph took the body and wrapped it in clean linens, put it in his own tomb, a new tomb only recently cut into the rock, and rolled a large stone across the entrance. Then he went off.

Traditional tomb stone used to roll in front of tombs that are cut into the side of the rocky hills.

But Mary Magdalene and the other Mary stayed, sitting in plain view of the tomb. After sundown, the high priests and Pharisees arranged a meeting with Pilate. They said, “Sir, we just remembered that that liar announced while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will be raised.’ We’ve got to get that tomb sealed until the third day. There’s a good chance his disciples will come and steal the corpse and then go around saying, ‘He’s risen from the dead.’ Then we’ll be worse off than before, the final deceit surpassing the first.”
Pilate told them, “You will have a guard. Go ahead and secure it the best you can.” So they went out and secured the tomb, sealing the stone and posting guards.

Risen from the Dead {Matthew 28:1-7}
After the Sabbath, as the first light of the new week dawned, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to keep vigil at the tomb. Suddenly the earth reeled and rocked under their feet as God’s angel came down from heaven, came right up to where they were standing. He rolled back the stone and then sat on it. Shafts of lightning blazed from him. His garments shimmered snow-white. The guards at the tomb were scared to death. They were so frightened, they couldn’t move.

The Garden Tomb just outside the city walls - one of the possible sites of Jesus' burial.
The other possible burial site - memorialized inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
The angel spoke to the women: “There is nothing to fear here. I know you’re looking for Jesus, the One they nailed to the cross. He is not here. He was raised, just as he said. Come and look at the place where he was placed.
 “Now, get on your way quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He is risen from the dead. He is going on ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there.’ That’s the message.”

Happy Easter!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Daily Life in Syria These Days

We have had much contact from our friends in Syria over the last month. The news is not good. Here is a glimpse of what life looks for them day in and day out.

Sept 18: Another difficulty is added to our life now, since in Syria the mid of September is the time that schools and universities start. But it seems that they won’t now, because thousands of refugees are living in schools and in the university campus, and fighting is still going in many areas in the city! In addition to our fear to send our children out!

Sept 22: We are closing another week with the same situation of fighting in the city, same expensive {food}, at the same time more closed streets for cars, more check points, more very negative expectations about the moment we live and the one will come, because of the new additions to the situation which are Snipers {who are now very famous in many areas over buildings, killing people in many cases with no reason, but killing!} and Mortar shells {which fall randomly killing people. For example last night more than 10 of those mortars, somewhere around our area, which made us awake up till 5.00Am.}

Sept 29: Since last Saturday till Thursday our days went slowly and in danger of Snipers and Mortars. But since Thursday night Friday morning and last night, I can’t tell you how horrible were our nights till morning, and it seems that tonight is the same, the fighting is strong to a point that we were smelling the gunpowder and the smoke of fire. Even now while I am writing this from minute to minute a heavy bomb or explosion shaking our windows!

Oct 6: Since the very big explosion Wednesday morning, I feel so sad and depressed. The same area and square I took my 13 years old son to walk around Tuesday noon, it was a very nice day full of life! I tried to go after the explosion but fighting was still on, isn’t it strange! It was not enough that they sent 2500/Kg of explosives, but they sent fighters at the same time, it is fully crazy. I took my son again Thursday morning to see the destruction, I think “dreadful” is a suitable word to describe the scene. More mortars fell on buildings, streets and people, killing and destroying. More fear in our hearts from strangers who came to live in our area, or even pass through it. More fear of cars, hundreds Kg’s of explosives were in many cars prepared to blow them the same last WEDNESDAY!

Oct 13: I will give you some real examples of how life is like for some of my friends and neighbors:

(family of five persons), who used to be a goldsmith remain without job for more than one year, then he decided to change his career, he rented a shop last April, and now because of fighting in the area he closed his shop for more than 5 weeks!

(family of three persons), who used to have a small truck for his business, but nearly he is closing his second month without using it at all for many reasons, especially Gasoline and safety!

(family of four persons), they are from Iraq, came to Syria few years ago because of the crazy situation there. He is a chemist, but with no job more than four months, since factories are closing!

(single), just finished his BA in physics, his family has a small shop downtown, he tried to use it, but downtown shops open for one day and close for more than three days, and finally, the last blast obliged all shops there to close the whole week!

(single), he used to work in office connecting with car registration authority, he lost his job more than five month ago, when the “opposition” blowup the building. Then he found a printing house, but it closed two month ago because of the very bad situation.

(family of five persons), have a small shop, but nearly empty, because he hasn’t enough money to buy goods, at the same time he is afraid to buy, and no one knows if the war will arrive to his street tomorrow or coming week!

(students) those who are waiting their graduating from the university, and afraid that this will not happen this year.

Oct 25: Today, the rebel army arrived to the street where our home is located, with their cars and weapons , and it seems that a huge fight will start here very soon since the official Syrian army is coming in any second, the free army are making checkpoints. These was a car bomb car last Sunday morning in our area, 5 minutes walking from our home, the situation is not good, in fact Tuesday and Wednesday fighting started very close to us, something like 10-15 minutes walking form our home and church.

Oct 26: Thank you for your prayers which helped us yesterday a lot. My good news about what happened yesterday are two: first that the opposition forces which entered our area and put one of their check points in front of our church, they withdrew after noon, and the second one is that there were no fighting in our area, which mean ourselves as well our properties are safe!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Satisfying International Taste Buds

I love the little reminders I get of the impact living internationally has had on our kids. This week, I observed one example...

I always cook a special meal for our family birthdays. I will ask the birthday person what their special request is and go at it! My son had his 11th birthday this week and I had to chuckle with his request: Red Thai Chicken Curry. Sounded good to me! I chuckled again when I remembered that my daughter had requested Maqlubeh {her favorite Middle Eastern dish} for her birthday meal. 

Thought I'd share the recipes and you can tickle your international taste buds too!

Red Thai Chicken Curry
¼ cup oil
 1 onion, sliced
 3-4 cloves garlic
1 can coconut milk
2 TBS red curry paste
½ cup peanut butter
 1 lb chicken, cooked and cubed
 2 TBS soy sauce
½ red pepper, sliced
1 1/2 cups of broccoli, thawed
1 TBS lemon juice
1 TBS sugar
 2 cups rice

Heat oil in wok or large pan and add onions and garlic. Pour in 1/3 can of coconut milk. Let simmer for 2 minutes. Add curry paste and peanut butter. Simmer. Add chicken and soy sauce. Simmer. Add another 1/3 can of the coconut milk, broccoli and red peppers. Let simmer 5 minutes. Add last 1/3 cup coconut milk and stir. Simmer for 3 minutes. Add sugar and lemon juice to taste. Mix well and serve over rice.

2 medium eggplants
4 potatoes
1 onion
1 lb chicken, diced
2 cups rice (uncooked)
2 TBS seven spice 
olive oil
6 oz. tomato paste

Soak rice in water. Peel & slice eggplant, salt each slice & let sit 1 hour to drain. Peel & slice potatoes and onions. Spread olive oil on large baking sheet & bake potato and onion slices for 20 min. @ 350. Bake eggplant slices for 15 min. on large baking sheet. Meanwhile, spice chicken cubes with seven spice & brown in large pot with oil, then add 1 cup chicken broth, bring to boil to cook the chicken. Remove cooked chicken from pot leaving the broth. Layer baked potato & onion slices in bottom of the pot (that has the chicken broth in it). Layer baked eggplant slices on op of potato/onion slices. Place cooked chicken on top. Drain water from rice & spread the rice on top of the chicken layer. Press all down, pour 2 cups water mixed with tomato paste over top. Bring to boil, then cover and simmer 20 min. To serve, tip pot over on large platter (in Arabic, 'maqlubeh' means 'upside down'). Serve with plain (Greek) yogurt.