I have received so many emails from my Internet friends regarding my trip to Israel. While I’m sorry that I cannot continue posting random photos online to FaceBook (see previous entry for details as to why), one of my readers emailed me with a few questions that I thought I’d share with the rest of you.
Have you been to Israel before? Has it changed you?
This is my first trip to Israel. I have always wanted to come here and, when my husband suggested that we visit, I jumped at the chance. We are here for two weeks and, with the exception of the FB bullying incident, everything has been gloriously wonderful.
One of the interesting things is that we have blended our tours to focus on both Christian history as well as Israeli history. Has it changed me? I think anytime that you travel overseas (or even within our own country), it changes you. However, this trip has been especially powerful.
Something magical has happened in this land. To start with, one of the oldest (and best-selling) books of all times provides the perfect guidebook to touring the land of Judea. Everywhere you turn are places in the Bible. From the Western Wall to Capernaum to the Sea of Galilee (which I’m looking at as I write this) to the Jordan River, I can just pick up my tattered Bible to learn more about these places. I can see the ruins, touch the stones, and feel the history. Unlike America, in Israel, you can walk among many of the ruins.
At Masada, my husband and I walked down the side of the mountain to see Harold’s palace. I made the comment that we could never have such a site in America because someone would lean too far over the wall and fall down resulting in the family suing the government. I’m probably not too far from the truth.
Yesterday, we drove to the Golan Heights. There is so much agriculture here, it’s amazing. Banana farms, wineries, mango groves…you name it, the people of Israel grow it. As you drive, random cows and horses wander across the road. Being a horse lover (as many of you know), this thrilled me! To see horses roaming free was amazing (even if they looked a bit skinny).
There are also ruins of old stone buildings and roads along the way. As you drive along the ridge, you can see the mountains of Syria and Lebanon in the distance. We stopped at one place, the Valley of Tears, where a great battle of the Yom Kippur War was fought in 1973. There were old bunkers and tanks that we could explore. The sun beat down upon us and my husband pointed out where he had fought during that war, over to the west on Mount Hermon. He became reflective and walked away so I wandered off to explore.
My heart started to race and I realized what it was that I heard. Bombing from Syria. Damascus was just over the ridge before us and, with the wind, the noise of the civil war drifted our way.
I’ve never experienced such a feeling before. With each subsequent blast, I knew that people were dying and lives were being destroyed. Only later did we learn that the fighting was NOT in Damascus but in a small village between Damascus and Israel, closer than I thought.
I’m not embarrassed to admit that I was more than a bit nervous. Yet, no one else seemed to notice. It’s a common occurrence in the lives of the Israeli people. I learned that the Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip send missiles on a regular basis to the villages in the south of Israel. When I asked why people still live there, the response is simple: If we leave, the Palestinians win.
(NOTE: In the photo to left, where the green valley ends, Syria begins).
That’s a much different experience than I intended to have when I came to Israel.
But there are other experiences that have moved me. When we went to the Mount of Beatitudes, I was in awe that I was standing on the place where Jesus gave the Sermon of the Mount. They have a small church on the place now. It’s beautiful. Outside of the building are gorgeous gardens with flowering bushes and trees. It’s a peaceful place that overlooks the Sea of Galilee.
After having explored Capernaum earlier in the day, it was obvious why so many people were attracted to Jesus. His sermon touched them on so many levels that we simply cannot imagine. During that time period, there was so much oppression by the Romans that the Jewish people needed to feel connected, to understand life and God. Jesus explained it in simple terms. If you are poor, you will be rich through God. If you are mourning, God will comfort you. If you are meek, you will inherit God’s world. If you are hungry, God can provide. Of course, you can look at it on so many levels…literally or metaphorically. That’s one of the beautiful things about the Bible. We can interpret it based on our needs and understanding.
Capernaum was a neat site to visit, too. With archeological excavations underway, it was easy to see how Peter and his neighbors lived. This was the village Jesus called “home” during his preaching years. The synagogue that is there today was built on the remains of the actual building where Jesus began his preaching. The foundation is still there, the stones darker as they were built from local rocks (vs. imported ones). Since the entire region used to be an active volcano, all of the older buildings are made from black stone.
But it didn’t matter. As we walked through the ancient synagogue, you could sense something powerful in the air. God was here. God is here.
Since you can see the Sea of Galillee from Capernaum (it was a fishing village, after all), you can really get a sense of what life was like. The men would fish, the women would tend to the homes and children. There are old grinding stones from the days of Jesus that can be seen in the ruins. I wonder if any grain was ground up in them that fed Jesus. After all, they worked together as a community. These villages were small, only a handful of families. But the center was always around the synagogue.
So, has the trip changed me? The answer is YES…in many different ways. I hope that some of my postings have shown my readers why and, on some level, have changed you, too.