Bar none, my best pre-trip resource was the Lonely Planet guide for Israel & the Palestinian Territories. But they got a few things not quite right — a couple misspellings on street names, and the church across the street is Lutheran, not Anglican — this whole little area of Jaffa was once known as the German Colony. (The photo is of Immanuel Lutheran’s modern stained glass, which was installed in 1977.)
And it also said that this hostel was part of a congregation of Messianic Jews and Arabs – I was excited to explore that. But so far, Arabs are in little evidence. When I came in for breakfast this morning, the conversation was one, shall we say, where I’m not sure a Palestinian Christian would have felt comfortable. An animated young couple were very much part of it. I just listened, and ate my eggs and cucumber.
When the others left, he asked me where I was from (of course). Turns out they are from Finland. How shall express my shock? I’ve shared with some the old line “How do you know a Finn likes you?” >>> “He’s staring at your shoes instead of his own.”
Still, despite the stats that tell us Finns are the most introverted people in the world, here was this chatty Scandy and his equally talkative wife. Both blond, blue and pale with ruddy cheeks, as was their 3 year-old daughter – who acted much more Finnish than her parents.
They are part of a evangelical house-church in the middle of Finland, which is to say, well towards the Arctic Circle. Where they have two, maybe three, weeks of “real” summer every year. Where they always have to explain to the vast agnostic majority that, no, they are not connected the moribund official Lutheran Church, but no, they are not cult members either. They just love Jesus, and strive joyfully to follow him. Finns. Go figure.
I kept running into the Finn Family all day — in front of St. Peter’s Church around 10:30, where dozens of tour groups speaking almost as many languages vied for limited slices of shade. But not my fair Finn. He confessed to me later that in two years of preparation for their trip, he had prayed to God that, once he got here, he might be blessed with a sunburn. An indication of just how little summer they get back home. Later, he joyfully showed off the answer to his prayers (where-upon I have begun praying for his now flaming red skin…)
He said he sleeps 10 hours a day back home, but only about half that here. “Maybe it’s the sun, or maybe the excitement of being in Israel.” An enthusiastic Finn indeed.