“Aliyah Return Center” – Chapter 10 in my forthcoming book “Ahava Adventure – The Four Louis Brothers Trip to Israel” – Steve Martin
(Photos by Steve Martin – Sept. 26, 2019)
After leaving Mount Carmel and the quiet monastery facility, we headed to Haifa, a major Israeli harbor city on the Mediterranean Sea in the northwest corner of the country. I particularly wanted to show the guys an overlook of the beautiful harbor, but once again, did have a bit of trouble finding the exact place I had been to before, more than once. I tried to minimize my frustration outwardly, realizing I was too much trying to depend on the Google map app, and of course, the jesting started among the three as I turned wrong onto street after street. But heh, we were having a good time. (And later the Google map proved great throughout the trip.)
Trying to find the cave where Elijah the Prophet had hidden in after running from Queen Jezebel, prior to his grand victory over her prophets of Baal, we took a gondola ride up a mountain, giving us not only a rocking time hanging from the steel cable as we swayed side to side, but seeing the historic naval ships in a harbor museum and the multitude of fuel storage tanks, two facts of which Haifa is known for.
At the top of the climb, across the busy street, was the Stella Maris Monastery. We had no idea it was there, but of all things in our quest to find Elijah’s cave, we found it within. Or at least the signs said. Again, I am grateful to the Catholics for preserving many historic locations in the Holy Land, even if they may not necessarily be the “exact, exact” place where a specific event occurred. At least we can know it did in the general area. Walking on to and into something, where the man of God overcame evil forces arrayed against him, does strengthen one’s faith for that which we likewise face today.
Being raised a Roman Catholic through high school, and in my senior year visiting a monastery in Dubuque, Iowa as I sought the Lord of myself becoming a monk, monasteries and religious churches have always fascinated me. I still deem it is a high calling to choose to be celibate and dedicate oneself in prayer and solitude with the Lord Jesus, among other men and women seeking the same. But very, very few would even consider that today, except maybe in Asia or Africa for the most part.
Going forward from those teen years, as for me, I discovered I really wanted a wonderful wife and several kids (one reason – to see what they would look like!), and so I am very thankful that the Lord’s will and purpose led me down a different path later.
When wanting further information on this historical site I went to a webpage on the monastery. Not only was this the area where Elijah and followers lived in caves, but much more is written of the Crusaders, Carmelite friars and nuns, and community of hermits having established life here too in centuries past. Look here: https://www.seetheholyland.net/stella-maris-monastery/
With a 6 pm dinner appointment at the home of Richard and Carolyn Hyde (more in the next chapter) above the Sea of Galilee (Kinneret), we got back on the highway and headed east for the next leg of our journey to Tiberias and the Aliyah Return Center (ARC).
Laurie and I had been at the ARC in Beit Zera for the first time ourselves in May 2019 for two nights, seeing the exceptional work that is being done by Director Chaim Malespin, his most dedicated staff assembled, and the many volunteers (both short-term and long-term) as they diligently restore a decades-old boarding school, on many acres with dozens of buildings, for those making aliyah (immigrating) to Israel. In conjunction with the Jewish Agency and the Israeli Ministry of Absorption, it is an enormous ongoing task. But the work is getting done, and most needed in preparation for those flooding into the country in the coming days, months and years ahead.
I first met Chaim at an aliyah conference in Jerusalem in October 2018 while in attendance. When this young 30-something guy walked into the room, immediately drawing my attention with his huge smile and very outgoing personality, I had to figure that he was indeed unique among the brethren. Then when he was introduced a short time later as one of the day’s speakers, my interest really perked up. As one other speaker noted, “the energizer bunny” energized all of us! At the time I never realized that I would later host him at a men’s luncheon in my city of Charlotte, North Carolina a few months later. But when you walk in the Lord’s ways, He keeps giving you new connections and adventures.
Imagine coming to a very remote place in the Galilee region of Israel, surrounded by banana groves, hills covered with brown fields, having a small zoo nearby with much fowl and such, with the Jordan River running a few hundred yards from your bedroom window…and you can get a beginning idea of just what this place is like. The Lord’s hand and favor is here, and as we drove up the blacktopped road, lined with flourishing red, purple, and yellow bougainvillea flowers, I could sense it.
So beautiful. So awesome. Needing a lot of building restoration work. Just like the Lord. Taking abandoned, uninhabitable places, as He has been doing so much in this land and bringing back His chosen ones for His end-time purposes. Simply amazing.
At first the four of us were going to be lodged in the 8-bunk bedroom right off the dining table area in the main building, but after a brief conversation with the head lady, we were given two bedrooms in the living quarters below, each of us having rooms with two twin beds. This worked out much better for a 71-year-old, two 64 and one 41-year men. Greg and David shared one room. Lathan and I got the other.
We had to move quickly in unpacking and getting settled in before the half-hour drive up to the next mountain to the Hyde’s, but we made it, arriving on time for the great night ahead, above the Sea of Galilee.
Our first full day to be completed on a very wonderful note. Literally.
Read more on the Aliyah Return Center: https://www.aliyahreturncenter.com/
For viewing my short 64 videos on this entire trip, see YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DWLWpKgxnes&list=PLlRsYroaU_0AZiDz4yBAQQbZnb-UvmBWE