Israel Cyprus Sandwich
Two Months of Travel - One Delicious Sandwich
TLDR: In February and March 2023, I spent two weeks touring Israel, one month volunteering in Cyprus and a final two weeks exploring Jerusalem before returning home with authentic replicas of the first-century cup and bowl used during the Last Supper.
The last week in January, I sold my car for scrap and used the money to embark on an epic journey to The Holy Land.
For two weeks I traveled with a tour group co-guided by Dr. Gayle Timberlake from Simka Foundation and Danny Erlich from Keshet Educational Journeys. I’m not a fan of tour-style travel, so these two weeks were especially difficult for me. I did book a tour because I wanted to, I did so because I heard God say “Go”.
Typically, I prefer setting my own schedule (or lack thereof) when traveling. If I’m fascinated at a historical site and want to stay longer, I find it bothersome to be told that our bus is leaving. Likewise, when at a location that sucks, I enjoy the freedom of just leaving and not being forced to stick around.
I’m happy to report that on our journey, both scenarios were kept to a minimum. Our tour group was small enough (12) that we weren’t herded like the dreadful charter bus tours. Moreover, I was delightfully surprised with the amount of rapid learning that can take place when in the company of biblical experts like Dr. Gayle and Danny. The historical prowess that was imparted while traveling with these two leaders through Israel would forever shift my biblical perspective.
Danny, an Orthodox Jew, destroyed an antisemitic stereotype that I had carried for so long, unbeknownst to me. For a decade prior to discovering Yeshua, I worked alongside families orchestrating the highest levels of evil in the world (quite literally). Danny would innocently argue that he knows about Kabbalah, but I soon learned that his understanding of this Hebrew word meaning “Receiving” or “Revealing” was starkly different from the hidden esoteric agenda that guides the actions of so many world leaders today.
My view of the Jew was tainted by previous experiences until I met Danny, a man who genuinely loves the Lord. His dedication to Torah gave me an entirely new and profound respect for an entire people group. Beyond this, because Danny is the managing director of a travel company leading Christian tours in Israel, he knows more about New Testament scriptures than most believers.
Through Danny, I began to understand the “partial hardening [that] has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles…” as spoken about in Romans 11:25-32. Danny loves the Father and knows all about the stories of Yeshua, but—even so—he is unable to see Yeshua as the revelation of the Old Testament prophecies. Yet.
Dr. Gayle explains it like this.
She says that the Jewish understanding of God and the Christian understanding of God can best be described using a puzzle. The Christian has the centermost puzzle piece. Truly, this is the only piece that matters and we rejoice that we know the Messiah, yet most Christians are missing the entire biblical context of Yeshua’s teachings. The Jew, on the other hand, has the entire puzzle put together but is missing the center most piece. When their eyes are opened to the truth of Yeshua, their long-awaited Messiah, they will have a complete puzzle.
Let us not mock the Jew, but rejoice that at some point the natural branches will be grafted back into the root, as described in Romans 11:17-24.
“And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the
power to graft them in again. For if you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree,
and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree.”
Dr. Gayle Timberlake has her PhD in Second Temple Judaism with a focus on the customs and traditions of the earliest Church. As such, everything she teaches comes from a first-century perspective. When she teaches, she is careful only to share what is backed up scripturally or through extra-biblical sources that can be dated to the first century or before.
When you begin to read the Bible with fresh eyes inspired by a Hebrew mindset, the scriptures come alive.
For me, this is the the most profound phenomenon that took place when traveling in Israel. The scriptures came alive. It’s now a joy to re-read historical accounts as I am actively placing them in their geographical context.
Upon completing the tour (which comprised ten days of my first two weeks in Israel), Dr. Gayle and I sent the rest of the group home and said goodbye to big bus travel. Instead, we rented a car. I became her executive chauffeur as we traversed back and forth across the country, navigating tight alleys and hectic Israeli streets.
In just a few short days, we pulled on Gayle’s strategic relationships in the country and met with various leaders. We drove to Beit Meir and shared our vision with the executive team at Israel 365. One evening we walked to dinner in the German Colony with the founders of Bridges for Peace; the following evening we drove cross country to an estate in Tel Aviv where we enjoyed a fancy Shabbat dinner in the family home of an Israeli diplomat and former ambassador to the US.
That particular Friday was an especially jam-packed day as we wandered through the bustling morning markets of Mahane Yehuda before driving to a small mountainside village of Beit Shemesh—just west of Jerusalem—to meet a world renowned Israeli artist, Yoram Raanan and his wife Meira. As we toured the art studio, Gayle and Meira broke off in their own conversation. I found myself face-to-face with Yoram saying things that were not from me.
As I spoke, volunteering my services to build a Shopify store and fill it with print-on-demand products that carry his beautiful artwork, I can remember questioning my own words silently. I don’t have time to do this. What am I saying? By the time we left the art studio of Yoram Raanan, we had come to a simple agreement. He would allow us to use thirteen pieces of his art in the Shabbat Guide that we were building for Simka Foundation. And, I was given his permission to create an online store to sell his art that would bless him, his community and Israel.
Days later, I would begin the second leg of this three-part journey, board a $17 flight departing Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv and hop over the Mediterranean Sea to the island of Cyprus.
Dr. Gayle traveled with me during the beginning of my journey in Cyprus, although she left after a couple weeks and I stayed an entire month. Our stay on the southern, Greek side of Cyprus was short-lived. After some brief negotiation, we boarded a black limousine (same price as a normal taxi, so why not?) and were driven to the UN green zone that divides the island in half.
A old friend of Gayle’s, Hannah, waited for us patiently as we crossed the UN border and entered the unrecognized northern side of the island. The northern side is Turkish, but not officially. No one can receive international mail here and it is officially an unrecognized land. There are some fascinating things that I learned about Cyprus while traveling here and some disturbing things I discerned about the city of Famagusta in particular. I will address these topics at a later date.
For now, let me simply state that I spent a month living on the couch of an amazing couple and sewing seeds of 24/7 worship in the basement of their home. I believe that a house of worship and literal underground church will emerge in this land right in the face of the enemy. Due to some strategic reasons, I cannot speak about details of the location or specifics of the project on this post. If I do address these topics openly on this site at a later date, the post will be positioned behind a pay wall.
For now, let me simply say that I helped convert a home into a refuge for Turkish earthquake victims. During my short stay we multiplied a small chicken farm into a poultry powerhouse and installed the first of three raised wicking bed gardens to feed families in the years ahead.
Just days before my 38th birthday, I was gifted a private room at a local resort in exchange for accompanying a journalist around the island. So… I woke up to this epic sunrise on my birthday!
When I first came to Cyprus, I was not certain where I would be going next (or how long I would even stay here for that matter). I considered venturing up to Turkey to provide direct aid to the earthquake torn region, but—upon praying intently about it—I did not feel this was my assignment.
And then, one morning, out of nowhere, I heard the Lord speak. “Return to Israel.”
My first two-week trip to Israel was spent exploring various parts of the Holy Land. Only a few days were spent in Jerusalem. My second two-week adventure in Israel would be spent exclusively in the capital city. Jerusalem holds a special place in my heart, especially because during these two weeks, the Lord and I walked the streets of this ancient city together. Never in my life have I heard his voice so clearly as during these short two weeks while “waiting on the Potter”.
One of the main reasons I came on this adventure in the first place was because I was helping Dr. Gayle launch a project called Festival in a Box. On her previous trip to Israel in 2022, Gayle met Joseph, an Israeli antiquities dealer who believes in Jesus. Joseph has been in the antiquities business for three generations and grew up exploring hidden caves and preserving the lost treasures he and his father uncovered.
His unassuming store, under an arch in the old city of Jerusalem, guarded an original cup and bowl until Gayle specifically asked for them. Joseph rummaged through dusty antique drawers where other priceless relics were tucked away. When Joseph presented the clay pottery to Gayle, she knew, based on her years of expertise, that an authentic first-century experience was at hand.
Part of my task was sourcing clay from local quarries in the Holy Land and employing local artisans to create replicas of these unique vessels. The day after I heard the Lord tell me to leave Cyprus and return to Israel, the local potter sent me a message on WhatsApp informing me that the pottery was done. When I arrived in Israel, however, I soon learned that “done” was a relative word, as the drying time in the winter months of Israel took longer than anticipated.
For two weeks, I eagerly awaited the finished pottery.
These two weeks were strategic in the Kingdom. Each morning I awoke with the Lord and walked the streets based on where He told me to go. There are some that would question this kind of intimate time with the Lord, but—for me—I question those who don’t have it. God speaks. We can choose to pause our busy lives and listen. Many of the messages the Lord gave me while walking these ancient streets will be released in 2024. You will see that the Lord speaks. You will see that He is giving some of us messages for such a time as NOW.
Subscribe to be privy to these messages as the Lord releases them.
For now, they are vaulted away, but soon and very soon they will be unveiled and will beckon believers to see the heart of our King at a specific moment in time!
When the up and bowl replicas were finally completed, I sat with Joseph in his antiquities shop and meticulously wrapped each one in bubble wrap and loaded them into a couple hard shell pieces of luggage. You see, Passover was rapidly approaching and it was imperative that we fulfill our commitments.
I am pleased to report that this authentic cup and bowl shipped in our first Festival in a Box, just in time for Passover. We invite you to step into the story and transform your Passover experience as we celebrate the timeless traditions of Jesus together.
(You can learn more about my ongoing involvement with Simka Foundation here.)