What. A. Trip. I just spent a week in Israel with my New York City partner in crime, Rachel and her sweet family. We got on the road Monday driving from Tel Aviv to Galilee, up north to the borders of Syria and Lebanon, back down south to Jerusalem for three days and finished the week with a day at Masada and the Dead Sea.
This week was like a history/geography/government/sociology/Bible lesson on steroids, thanks to our incredible guide, Chaim who has been sharing his homeland with tourists for more than 20 years. My reporter’s notebook served me well. I took copious notes. Okay, okay. Actually, my “notes” are more like a list of people and places with a string of question marks. Oh how I wish I would have paid attention in world history. Let’s just say I have a lot to Google.
I won’t bore you with all the details, like how many times I ate hummus or how you can identify second temple age stone by the way it’s cut, but here are my trip highlights (in no particular order)…you know the moments where you think, “Wow, I can’t believe I’m doing this.”
1. Wading in the Jordan River. We’re not talking the Amazon or Mississippi here. It’s dinky. I had no idea. But this is the very same Jordan that the Israelites crossed before entering the Promised Land and the very same Jordan where Jesus was baptized. The renewal, the constant flow, the cleansing and the life the Jordan brings has been a staple in Israel for a long time.
2. Walking among the olive trees in the Garden of Gethsemane. The trees on the hillside of the Mt. of Olives are more than 2,000 years old, and they still produce. These trees have seen a lot. This was the place where Jesus retreated, where he got away from it all, where he struggled, where he to talked to God and where he revived his soul.
3. Touching the Western Wall of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Drums. Singing. Family portraits. Men in ties and women in suits and hats celebrating the bar mitzvahs of their sons. Not a typical day at the Wailing Wall, but because it was a Thursday, a day on which the Torah is read, 13-year-old boys partook in their coming of age rituals. Men and women are separated at the wall. So many women lined it, clutching their Hebrew prayer books, some weeping, some crying out, some stuffing a piece of paper in any open crevice where countless have left their requests before God. But all are moved that this is the only remnant of the retaining wall of God’s Temple, and out of respect, the women back away when they retreat, never turning their backs.
4. Floating in the Dead Sea. You really do float despite all the pita and hummus you might have consumed.
5. And if I haven’t mentioned it enough already, the hummus. Hummus, hummus, hummus. On pita, schwarma, falafel, schnitzel, cucumbers, peppers. I mean, the possibilities are endless. The olives were a close runner-up.
That’s Israel in a very tiny nutshell.
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth…And from his fullness we have received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” John 1:14-17