Dear San,

A few weeks ago Laura asked me in a letter if I would like to write to one of her friends. I said I would so she sent me your address and now I am writing.

Since you know little or nothing about me I might as well give you the whole auto-biography.

My full name is Frank Herbert Martin. I live at 5-4 E. Grove Ave. in the fair village of Rautoul Illinois. I was born August 23, 1930 and I am now fifteen. I lead a very happy life, that is up to a certain point. As for my looks, well I never have any pictures taken because it would undoubtedly break the camera. I am going steady with a little redhead named Marjorie Herbert. Well so much for the boring lecture about myself.

I’ll be glad when it gets warm enough to swim again and I’ll be glad when school’s out.

I supposed you don’t have much trouble with the climate in regard to swimming down there do you?

Last summer I worked on a friend’s farm for a while and then I went to camp for four weeks. After that I went on a canoe trip in Northern Wisconsin. I am a Sophomore. in high school (heaven knows now I got there) and I take Latin II, Eng II, Plane Geom, and Biology. We really have a tough teacher in Geom as Laura can tell you.

I have many nicknames and the most common is Cherokee. Don’t get the idea that I am half Indian from that nam. As for outside activities I go out for all the sports. I love to swim, ice-skate, and play tennis. Those are mostly side attractions for my main sport is tiddlywinks.

I play the piano, cornet, baritone, and last but by far not least the Jews harp.

I am six feet tall, weight 170 lbs, I have dark brown hair and brown eyes and am fairly dark complected.

Next year, when we will able to get a new car we plan to go west for a vacation.

Well since I don’t know you I could find little to talk about except myself but if you care to write back we can remedy that.

It’s getting past Papa’s bedtime so I had better quit.

Sure hope you can read my writing. You have all my sympathy.

Please write back soon and send me a picture of yourself.

Be seeing you,


I’d hoped to be able to pass this letter along to Frank’s children or grandchildren. Sadly, he died a few years after writing this.

Frank Martin

We celebrated our 25th anniversary last year with a five day hike in Galilee. Starting point: the Fauzi Azar Inn in old city Nazareth. The history of its establishment is a great example of Jews and Arabs coming together:

I would go back in a heartbeat, even now. And hope to spend a year or two or three in Galilee in the not so distant future.

Most of the better trip photos are posted on Facebook, although getting them sorted in the correct order has been challenging and frustrating. A Dropbox album to share with our new hiking friends is next on my list.

If you’re not my Facebook friend and you’d like to see the photo albums for this trip (1-2 more to come) send me an email or put a comment to this post.

We met upon the Jesus Trail

We met upon the Jesus Trail (April 2013)

Below is a list of our accommodations while in Israel, listed in the order of our visit. Each is very different from the other, but I would gladly repeat our stays. Check back for updates as I will be posting on each location…eventually.

All were booked utilizing TripAdvisor, Fodor’s Israel Travel Guide, Booking.com, or as part of our Jesus Trail hiking package.

ArtPlus Hotel, Tel Aviv

ArtPlus Hotel, Tel Aviv

ArtPlus Hotel (Tel Aviv) – A boutique hotel a short walk from the Mediterranean.

Tamar Residence, Jerusalem

Tamar Residence, Jerusalem

Tamar Residence (Jerusalem) a residence hotel in a Jerusalem neighborhood with wonderful restaurants nearby.

Fauzi Azar Inn

Fauzi Azar Inn, Nazareth

Fauzi Azar Inn (Nazareth’s Old City) a 200-year old converted Ottoman mansion. Don’t miss their off-the-beaten-track Old City walking tour.

Cana Wedding Guesthouse

Cana Wedding Guesthouse

Cana Wedding Guesthouse (Kfar Cana) – Just steps from the traditional site of the wedding feast where Jesus performed his first miracle of turning water into wine (John 2: 1-11).(Click here to read my post about the Cana Wedding Guesthouse)

Hotel Lavi

Hotel Lavi

Hotel Lavi (Kibbutz Lavi) – This religious kibbutz (Israeli commune) operates a four-star hotel, complete with kosher meals. They observe Shabbat (Sabbath) so checking in from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday is not possible.  

Shavit's Arbel Guesthouse

Shavit’s Arbel Guesthouse

Shavits’ Arbel Guesthouse (Moshav Arbel) – Wonderful, wonderful food, a balcony, and a jacuzzi tub to soak in after a few days on the trail.

Vered Hagalil, Galilee

Vered Hagalil, Galilee

Vered Hagalil (north of the Sea of Galilee) a guest farm with an amazing view from our cabin/suite.

Idelson Hotel, Tel Aviv

Idelson Hotel, Tel Aviv

Idelson Hotel (Tel Aviv) a new 8-room hotel run by two young men who worked in the U.S. for three years to save the money for their venture.

Have a question? Leave me a reply and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.

Cana Guesthouse 2.jpg

Southern hospitality has been dethroned. Israeli hospitality is the best-of-the-best.

During our two weeks in Israel we stayed in:

  • a large hotel run by a kibbutz (Israeli commune),
  • a boutique hotel featuring the work of Israeli artists,
  • a 200-year old Ottoman mansion converted into a hotel,
  • a guest farm on the Sea of Galilee,
  • a residence hotel in a Jerusalem neighborhood,
  • a new 8-room hotel run by two young men who worked in the U.S. for three years to save the money for their venture,
  • and two guesthouses.

Some of the arrangements were made by the Jesus Trail* folks as part of our hiking tour package. The rest I booked on my own, relying on reviews on travel sites, books and forums such as TripAdvisor and Fodor’s. Every place we stayed was outstanding in just about every way, especially in their hospitality.

A guesthouse is a private home that has been converted to accommodate paying guests. After our first day of hiking, which was a chilly RAINY day, we stayed at the Cana Wedding Guesthouse. Charlie and were in a private room in a separate building, along with three other couples in our group. The eight of us shared the bathroom facilities, thankfully set up in separate rooms — a shower/toilet room, a toilet room, and a sink in the hallway. It worked out fine.


Relaxing in the Cana Wedding Guesthouse after a long day of hiking from Nazareth to Cana.

I loved our hosts, Sami and Su’ad!

Cana Guesthouse 1.jpg

He made sure we had everything we needed, from a welcoming beer or glass of wine, to extra blankets for the cold night ahead. She cooked for our group of 15. Look at all this wonderful food!

Cana Wedding Guesthouse 4.jpg

To be continued….

I am firmly planted in an uncomfortable chair, cushioned only slightly by the terrycloth bathmat from the jacuzzi tub that’s next to our bed (truly!) in our cabin by the Sea of Galilee. Of the places we have been during our two weeks in Israel, this is my favorite.

From where I sit, I see cities and towns on just about every hill, and the sun’s reflections on the windshields and rooftops on the cars driving between them. Tiberias. Moshav Arbel. Wadi Hamam. Cana. Migda. Ginosar. We hiked through most of these, and more.

I hear voices in the distance; it’s amazing how far they carry. The sounds of birds — the sounds of their wings flapping overhead, there gentle chirps and coos that seem to linger long past sunset. Crickets. An airplane. [Which reminds me of a joke I heard from a fellow hiker this week. How do you tell if a plane is Israeli? Count to five; if it’s Israeli it will still be in the air.] The wind blowing through the pine tree near our cabin.

I see buildings and gardens erected by men to a God they want to remember, to be near. On my left is the Domus Galilaeae, founded by the Neo-Catechumenal Way “to lead people to understand Christianity the way the first Christians did – as adults.” Last night we heard beautiful, joyful singing, laughter and clapping seep through its walls.


On down the hill in front of us leading to the sea is the surmised location of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). “You are the salt of the earth…You are the light of the world,” we are told. Charlie and I entered the basilica here, a large round sanctuary full of camera-toting pilgrims like us, just as the voices of a Philipino (I think) tour group began to sing in their native tongue. The rest of us stopped, trying to figure out what hymn they were singing. As we recognized the tune one by one just about everyone inside and possibly just outside that basilica began to sing the song in their own language. Beautiful.


Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.

This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long;
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long.

Perfect submission, perfect delight,
Visions of rapture now burst on my sight;
Angels, descending, bring from above
Echoes of mercy, whispers of love.

Perfect submission, all is at rest,
I in my Savior am happy and blest,
Watching and waiting, looking above,
Filled with His goodness, lost in His love.

I’m catching up on a few days’ devotional readings while relaxing; our Jesus Trail hike is over as of yesterday. From the window seat where I lounge overlooking the Sea of Galilee, I can also see many of the places where our feet fell (and fell and fell). Cliffs. Mountains. Muddy valleys.


How ancient this place feels. I’m enjoying this so much more than Jerusalem. I’m glad I went to Jerusalem (shrines and merchants and scads of tourists) but I really long to see it as it was, as it will be.

It’s like that line in “Sleepless in Seattle” when Rosie O’Donnell tells Meg Ryan, “You don’t want to be in love. You want to be in love in a movie.” Me too. Me too. I want to walk alongside Abraham, Moses, Gideon, David, Isaiah, John the Baptist, and Jesus, of course. I want to see what they saw, hear what they heard.

I sure hope we get to hike on the new earth.

I’ll have time and good wifi over the next couple of days so you may see more than a few posts from me.

Today is our third day on the Jesus Trail.

We began our adventure as strangers in pouring rain at a place called Fauzi Azar Inn, a 200 year old Arab mansion turned guesthouse at the suggestion of a Jew. God is never boring.

Singles, couples, friends, spouses…the faces might have been familiar that Saturday morning at breakfast. The 15 of us kept together on the trail in fear that alone we might miss that all-important trail marker

20130422-213329.jpg and get lost in the wilderness.

Before we’d traveled in two or three groups. Today we traveled mostly en masse up and down the rocky hills and through the miles of thick, never-let-go-of-your-boots mud. Up to your shins deep in places. Swallow your boots deep.

It was heaven on a stick, a walking stick.


Our group of 15 made it through the on -again off-again deluge from Nazareth to Cana arriving at 4:00pm. I only have cellular service on my phone (no wifi) so I’ll post more tomorrow.

A great if WET day of hiking.


Whether Arab, Jew, or Muslim, the people in Israel are very, very friendly to visitors. Abu Ashraf, for example, made us kataif today, sort of like a pancake folded and stuffed with local goat cheese or walnuts and cinnamon, griddled, and then drizzled with a light syrup. What a happy, friendly man he was. It made his food taste all the better.


The merchants shout “Welcome!” as the tourist walk by their booths. They even let our group come in and sample their nuts, fruit, and candy.


The staff at the hotels, inns, and restaurants we’ve been to have been professional, helpful, and oh so kind. The tour guides are amazing. (Below is today’s guide for the Old City Nazareth tour. She’s a Julia Stiles lookalike, don’t you think?)


And here’s a photo of our driver to Masada, En Gedi, and the Dead Sea talking to an Irish man we hung out with quite a bit that day (his Yorkshire-born wife too).


We’ve met people from New York, Boston (the day after the bombing at the marathon), Ireland, Denmark, Arizona, Germany, Poland, France, and even Fort Worth, Texas. Today we hiked to Mt. Precipice, the traditional site of the cliff that an angry mob attempted to throw Jesus off of (see Luke 4:29), with two women from Australia and Ron & Ellen from Central Oregon.


Tomorrow we begin hiking the Jesus Trail, doing the 10 miles from Nazareth to Cana with Gili, our young female *volunteer* guide, Ron & Ellen, plus about 10 more of what soon may be our new best friends.

I love this place.