12/8  We are now journeying to Israel and are flying in from Cyprus since the northern borders of Lebanon and Syria are too difficult and dangerous to pass through from Turkey. After an overnight ferry to Cyprus we met Alec from Italy who drove us around the northern occupied area before he dropped us in the old section of Nicosia where we found a bed at the Askaray Pansiyon. It was a welcome respite from the tension we felt being in Van for 5 days. These pictures capture the flavor of Northern Cyprus. The Turks made this beautiful Byzantine church into a mosque during the reign of the Ottoman Empire.  While walking in the old city, we saw a family butchering a goat or lamb in their front yard. It reminded us of Javier telling us stories of how his family would do so in rural Mexico. We stayed in this divided capitol of Cyprus for 5 days and on the day before leaving to Limmasol, expecting to catch a ferry to Israel, we had the privalege of being counted in their census taken every 5 yrs. Everyone had to stay inside their residences from morning until 6 pm to fill out the papers by the census workers. Most of the Greeks speak English as did those in Northern Cyprus so it was no longer an issue knowing how to navigate from one place to another. You could feel the bitterness as the Greeks  sp0ke of the north and described it as “occupied”. The wounds of the invasion 40 yrs ago still seemed fresh. We saw Christmas decorations everywhere wetting our appetite to celebrate Jesus birth in Israel. The Lord woke me up at 3 am with a dream of how to celebrate Christmas and consequently made our reservations to spend Christmas in Jerusalem and Christmas eve in  Bethlehem. No matter how special that may sound we know it won’t be like spending it with friends and family!! We miss you all!   Chuck