Israel has been on my bucket list for years for so many reasons. I’m Jewish. Both my parents were Jewish. My mother’s family was from Hungary and my father’s from Germany. I am blessed that both families came to the States before the Second World War and hence avoided the holocaust; but I’ve wanted to discover the Holy Land.
What is it about? Why does it exist?
When I grew up, I did not have much Jewish education, as there were few Jews in Wichita Falls, Texas. My mother taught us some bible stories and a few songs but that was the extent of my Holy education. I’ve wanted to know more. I wanted to know the history of the land and the history of my people. I have to say that this trip was truly one of the most heart opening historically interesting trips that I have taken. I cried often on this trip overwhelmed by the sadness, terror, grief, history, and magnificence of the Holy Land. The Holy Land is indeed that.
We began our tour in Casearea, an ancient Roman City right on the Mediterranean. In 22 BCE, King Herod began construction of a deep sea harbor and built storerooms, markets, wide roads, baths, temples and this incredible amphitheatre. You can imagine it all as you’re walking the region. What a beautiful kick off of our trip. We drove to Tiberius after a wonderful lunch, and the next day entered the sight of the Beatitudes. This is where Christ gave his Sermon on the Mount . It is magnificent sight.. so quiet and peaceful; and I could feel the energy of light and love there.
Then to the Golan Heights with our guide giving us history lessons as we drove. We were so close to Syria… just a stone’s throw away… so close to the war but it was quiet and you would not have known that we so close to such devastation. We learned that Israel is surrounded on all sides by enemies and what a delicate balance it is to stay peaceful. When you look at a map, Israel is so small compared with all its surrounding countries. Almost all of them are enemies. It’s a miracle that they have survived.
After Golan and lunch we drove to Tzfat a small but very spiritual town in the hills where the kabbalists shared their secrets. Tzfat is an artist’s community, and we immediately gravitated to an amazing gallery and ended up buying extraordinary pieces of sculpture.We didn’t have much time to walk around; but one day I hope to go back to Tzfat.
The following day, on the way to Jerusalem, we planted a tree on the way.
Our guide talked us through the biblical history of King David and then King Herod and how he built his palace on the mount. That palace was destroyed but the walls are still there and this golden mosque was built on top of it.
As we looked out on the Holy City, I could feel the energy drawing me to the Western Wall, or the Wailing Wall. Our guide explained how the women pray on one side and the men on the other. How can you not feel the energy of 2000 years of prayers? It was remarkable… deep and intense tears, and of course I wrote my desires and prayers on little pieces of paper and stuffed them in the cracks. Tears again… I couldn’t stop crying.
And then it was Shabbat.. Friday evening in Jerusalem.. a sacred time. I didn’t realize that the entire city closes down for the Sabbath. A Jewish family welcomed us into their home, as part of Shabbat of a Lifetime. What a memorable experience being in someone else’s home and celebrating their customs with them. I will never forget the generosity of our hosts.
The following day we went to the Holocaust Museum, Yad Vashem. There are no words for the atrocities. Our guide was so remarkable in her history and passion that we could barely speak afterwards. This incredible museum and memorial is something that everyone must experience. We must never forget.
Then on to the Dead Sea with a stop in Masada. We took the steep cable car up to the top of the mountain – and again we were enveloped in the history of the Jews protecting their land. This is a story that I wasn’t really familiar with and as our guide led us through the sight, I could imagine the terror and bravery of my people as they took their final last breaths.
Stay tuned…… and next blog will be all about the food of Israel. We had some extraordinary meals!