Editor’s Note: With PJ Media’s co-founder Roger L. Simon blogging from Israel this past week, now is a good time to think about a first trip to Israel for those who have not yet visited. This article from Kathy Shaidle first appeared as four pieces originally published November 23 — December 13, 2012. - DS
About five years ago, after my husband and I first heard Paul Wilbur perform at a messianic temple in Ft. Lauderdale, we became instant fans. Since then, we have played his CDs in our cars repeatedly.
Wilbur’s songs appeal to traditional Jews and Christians alike. He has performed in Israel on numerous occasions, and his love for that nation, coupled with his own Jewish heritage and love of Christ, is the hallmark of his music ministry, making him a unique performer.
As a result, Wilbur’s popularity as a singer, songwriter and praise/worship leader has grown tenfold around the world since we first heard him perform in a small venue.
His music resonates with me, and not just because we are both Jewish believers in Jesus Christ, but in the extraordinary way his songs fill any room (or car) with passion and love.
Now, as so often happens when I’m inspired to write something with a spiritual theme for PJ Lifestyle, a deeper dimension of the topic is revealed while I am doing “research.” (A quick Google search.)
Such was the case with Paul Wilbur. I had already decided to write about him because I thought PJ Lifestyle Sunday readers would appreciate knowing about him and hearing some of his music.
That was when I discovered, just this past December, Paul Wilbur made history as the first singer to perform at a religious concert event in Cuba with the full permission and “blessing” of the communist Cuban government.
Watch him here as he speaks about this historic trip.
His Cuban concerts were truly amazing events for this struggling nation and its oppressed people.
Perhaps, just the fact that Wilbur’s two “praise and worship” performances were even allowed to proceed, is a signal that some potentially major political, social and or spiritual changes are about to be instituted by the Cuban government.
Which begs the questions, “Is God at work in Cuba and if so, is HE using Paul Wilbur as a catalyst?”
Only time will tell, but in the meantime, check out Paul Wilbur Ministries and discover what a tour de force he has become around the world.
And, if you are ever presented with the opportunity to see him perform live, do not hesitate. Trust me when I tell you your faith walk could be impacted, even if you have little faith or none at all.
Finally, I will close with a video of Paul Wilbur performing a song that ranks high among my favorites.
Please do watch until the very end, for this song builds and soars and I predict your spirits will be uplifted right along with it.
In previous installments of this series, I’ve suggested famous (and not so famous) must-sees on your trip to Israel. You won’t want to miss your chance to float in the Dead Sea, snorkel with exotic fish in Eilat and fire a gun or two at Caliber 3 in Gush Etzion.
Now, onto some helpful hints and observations about everyday cultural cornerstones like food, language and manners.
PLUS: a crash course on words — like “settlement,” “refugee camp” and “checkpoint” — that don’t mean what you think they mean, at least in Israel.
The Jews wandered in the desert for 40 years because they couldn’t decide where to eat.
Food is a very big deal in Jewish culture, so it’s not surprising that you can eat well in Israel, and as cheaply or as expensively as you wish or can afford.
Contrary to what you may think, not all restaurants there are kosher.
Many people believe that kosher food, wherever it is served, is healthier and cleaner. I for one do get this sensation when I’m in Israel, that somehow the food is fresher and more carefully handled. When it comes to kosher food, a bug on your lettuce isn’t just a faux pas — it’s a serious violation of the law.
Every hotel offers a breakfast buffet. It’s an Israeli institution, and differs little from a similar spread in North America except for the addition of chilled fish like herring, and the absence of bacon and ham.
In fact, the presence of dairy at these buffets means that no meat — pork or otherwise — will be on the menu. Milk and meat are not combined because — to put it simplistically — milk represents life and meat represents death. (So while there are McDonald’s in Israel, they don’t serve cheeseburgers. Coffeemate was invented so that Jews could enjoy “cream” in their coffee while eating, say, a steak.)
One dish that’s standard fare in Israel, and that we fell in love with, is shakshuka. “Dr. Shakshuka’s” restaurant was closed the day we visited Jaffa, which is too bad because it is world famous:
We went to the charming Nelly’s Kitchen instead, and really enjoyed it.
In the evening, across Israel, a “switch” takes place in restaurants and dining rooms: meat is offered but dairy is not. The types of cutlery at your table setting will be different, too.
Expect your lunch or dinner order to come with bountiful plates of appetizers like humus and salad. THEN your main meal arrives. Keep this in mind when ordering (and eating.)
Since I’m from Toronto, I’m familiar with the cuisine of most cultures, and have long been a falafel fanatic. The falafel is the “hamburger” of Israel, so be sure to try one. If you’re a bland “meat and potatoes” person, this and other Israeli dishes may be an acquired taste.
Starbucks isn’t there yet, but the Israeli equivalent — Aroma — is arguably superior anyhow. You get a little piece of dark chocolate with your cup of coffee, and their sandwiches are exceptional.
In Jerusalem’s Old City, treat yourself to a poppy seed bun or other fresh pastry sold by the Muslim merchants who push their wares along on old wooden carts.
Check out the previous installments in Kathy Shaidle’s Israel Travel Series:
- 5 Places to Visit in Israel (Once It’s Safe To Go Back): Part One
- 5 Places to Visit in Israel (When It’s Safe to Go Back): Part Two
5. Caliber 3
This Gush Etzion range is one of the few places in Israel where tourists are permitted to fire guns. That makes its 2-hour courses for tourists incredibly popular, even though they aren’t exactly a walk at the beach:
At our program we combine together the values of Zionism with the excitement and enjoyment of shooting which makes the activity more meaningful. The contact with real soldiers who have experienced anti terrorism fighting means that everything shown and taught is authentic.
Don’t worry: you aren’t expected to run an obstacle course, but there is some running back and forth, yelling, and briskly paced team competition with lots of surprises.
Stick it out and you’ll be rewarded with the chance to fire a Ruger (too heavy!) and an M16.
They’ll even serve you lunch. (This is Israel; food is VERY important.)
Definitely one of the highlights of my trip.
(P.S.: Remember to wear long pants, and leave the flip flops at home. Ask permission about whom and what you can film and photograph.)
Our trainer was Steve Gar (below), an impressive guy originally from South Africa. Besides being a weapons expert, he is studying to be a rabbi and he works with special needs youth (one of whom served as Steve’s range assistant). Sorry, ladies — Gar’s married (to a Toronto girl!).