Its seven am Wednesday morning, and we are on the Mount of Blessing. The children are all sleeping peacefully in our snug caravan, while the early morning mists swirl around the mountaintop, caressing the vines. Quiet and peaceful, the busy last two weeks fade from memory…
We had resigned ourselves to the fact that Israel might not be a reality this year, and decided that if that was God’s will for us then that would be ok. We were really enjoying the caravan and enjoying seeing our friends more, and making new friends. The farmer who so kindly let us stay on the field has nine children, and we were really enjoying spending some time with them and getting to know them better.
On Tuesday, the fourth of August we spent the day with Pete’s parents when an email came through from HaYovel, saying that they have been working on getting some volunteers out there, were we still interested to go, and what is the news on my passport. It has now been a year since I made my application, and the South African Embassy’s Home Affairs department was still closed because of covid.
Well, I had talked about Pete coming over with the three eldest, but to be so far from the rest of us at these uncertain times didn’t seem like the right thing. So I ended up emailing a person who had contacted me concerning my passport a while ago, and phoning any number I could find. A little while later I had a phone call saying my passport is ready for collection. That was exciting. So the next step was to work out how to get to London to pick it up.
Our friends were willing to stay overnight to babysit, but there were a couple of complications with that. And driving up to London and back with Havah in one day was not going to work well either. On Wednesday morning a thought struck me: Lets take all the children and go and show them some of London.
Pete was out doing some electrical work for the farmer that morning, so I packed a set of clothes, pajamas and some snacks. When he returned he managed to book two family rooms in a Premier Inn on the Thames and overnight parking close by for our van. Amazing, considering it was August, which is really the busiest time of the year. Covid definitely has some advantages. And so we set off at half past two in the afternoon with a load of excited children.
After a long drive we ended up having dinner in a restaurant across from the Premier Inn. The government had started a new scheme to get the restaurant sector up and running again, and so they contributed forty percent of our food bill, which was very nice. The girls would have loved to spend a bit of time enjoying the luxury of having a hotel room, but time didn’t lent itself to that. They managed a quick late night bath, but it was nearing midnight, and we didn’t want to waste too much of the day by sleeping in.
After a cooked breakfast at the Inn we went for a meandering walk, with our destination being 15 Whitehall at Trafalgar Square, where I could pick up my passport. We walked through a quiet Covent Garden where only a few stallholders had set up. Walked through a street in China Town, decorated with bright lanterns, and ended up at a rather lovely fountain that had water spraying up around. By this time everyone was getting hungry, so we found a little Italian restaurant and shared some pizza there.
At Trafalgar Square I queued for about thirty minutes, and then I had my passport in my hand. What a relief after so many months of it weighing on my mind. God is good. We walked to St James’ park after that and had an ice cream to celebrate. Pete decided that it would be a good idea to start home, as the rush hour traffic would best be avoided. We got back to van and set out at half past three, and finally got home at half past eleven that night after stopping for dinner. It was a lovely adventure to have had with the children, and they were all brilliant.
Friday the seventh of August was preparation day for Shabbat. It was going to be a busy weekend. We were having a gathering on the Saturday, and because the field lends itself to having a gathering of many people, we were excited to be able to invite some extra friends who are normally not be able to join us. The five families we usually meet up with more than fill up a house by ourselves. One of our regular families’ siblings were joining us, and their parents were camping with us for two days. We also invited the farmer and his lovely family, so it was going to be a really amazing time.
On Sunday the ninth we headed to Pete’s parents for the afternoon to say hi and to pick up all our clothes and bags for Israel, just to be prepared.
On Monday we got the news… we have been approved to go to Israel. They managed to get permission from the Israeli government for fifty volunteers to enter, at a time when even Jewish businessmen cannot enter. We were so overwhelmed that we were chosen, as some of our children will not be a great deal of use for harvesting. But after they put out the email about fifty people being granted access, and that they wanted people who could stay for the full three months, the number of people who replied came to exactly fifty, and we were among them!
Monday afternoon we visited the farmer and his family, and organized for their six eldest children to come over and camp with us the following day.
Tuesday and Wednesday were taken up looking after thirteen children… They built a campfire, picked blackberries and made a pie. They were also very helpful ferrying water. We didn’t really appreciate how much water we used until we had to collect it every day.
On Thursday Pete’s dad came over to see our camp before we moved on and brought us some pasty’s. Unfortunately his mum was not feeling well, so she had to stay at home. I also had my last appointment at the chiropractor, and did some shopping on the way home for essentials like colouring books and activity books, to keep them occupied on the plane and in our two week quarantine. I also took the girls to Tesco that evening where we filled up two trolleys with various kinds of snacks. Anything to try and keep seven children happy in a static caravan for two whole weeks.
Friday was a very busy day. Our friends were having a Bar Mitsvah for their son, and asked whether they could celebrate it with us in the field. It was originally planned to be a big celebration, but for various reasons it turned out to be a small ceremony on the Friday nigh. They stayed over, and then we invited our group of friends for a gathering on Saturday to celebrate and say lehitra’ot (see you later).
The miracle in all this was that it was meant to rain the whole weekend. Pete was getting concerned that we would not be able to pack up in the dry, and he did take the bell tent down on Thursday when it was dry. But God is good, and Friday, Saturday and Sunday were dry. That meant that we could enjoy our last weekend in the UK fellowshipping with our friends.
Sunday was the only day that we had to break camp. Our friends very kindly came and collected all the children except Havah and Anya, which gave us the whole day to focus on getting packed. Up to about the middle of the week we still didn’t know what to do with the caravans. Pete spoke to the farmer, who actually had a self-storage yard where he stored caravans. God is so good, another mighty blessing.
We joined our friends for fish and chips at their house after dropping the caravans off at the yard. They also let us all have a proper shower, so that we could be fresh for our long drive to London.
Monday morning started with a bang. We packed up the last few things, got the children dressed , drove into Bodmin to pick up some bits and pieces, and eventually headed for London. It was a good drive up to London, but we had a surprise when we arrived at the long stay car park. They didn’t accept vans, even though the company we booked through knew exactly what sort of vehicle we required parking for… but thankfully they were willing to accept more money and we parked up and headed for the terminal.
We had something to eat at a restaurant in the Terminal. After finishing we had a look to see which gate we had to go to, and realised that the gate was closing. Well, you should have seen how we all ran to that gate. I haven’t moved that fast in a long time. We were the last to board, and were very grateful to sit down. We were actually required to wear our masks through the whole flight, except when we ate our rather meager meal consisting of a bread roll with one piece of tomato and one slice of cheese. Covid has certainly affected the quality of food on flights. This is an observation, not a complaint. We were so thankful to finally be on our way that none of these things mattered in the slightest.
Our stopover was in Turkey at two in the morning. We made our way to the boarding gate in good time, not wishing to repeat our previous mistake, and sat in a waiting room full of Israelis. They were very thorough and made sure we had the proper documentation to enter Israel. This last leg was only one hour and forty minutes long. Some of us managed a sleep as we entered the Holy Land. But our trip hadn’t ended yet.
We were the last to leave the plane as we were at the back (and also to make sure we had all our belongings) and made our way to passport control. I think we waited for about two hours. A very unofficial looking Israeli took our stack of passports and disappeared into the unknown. After multiple bathroom stops and many attempts to keep little ones occupied a longhaired lady brought us our passports and we were allowed to enter into Israel. Thankfully the two HaYovel Staff who came to pick us up hadn’t given up hope, and were waiting for us in the car park. We left when the sun was just rising, we were looking forwards to putting our feet on the mountain and breathing in the air.
And so starts the most exciting adventure of our lives, here on the mount of blessing, in the region where (along with Judea) eighty percent of the bible was written or happened. The mountains of Samaria where God promised through the prophets that he would reestablish his chosen people, that they would once again plant vines, and that the foreigners would be their herdsmen and their vinedressers. The land that God told Abraham he would give to his descendants forever, the land where The Anointed One, The Messiah, will reign forever from the throne of David in Jerusalem where has chosen to place his name forever. May his Kingdom come (soon), on earth………