I first stayed for a few days in a convent just outside Jerusalem in the town where John the Baptist was born. My first visit was to the Wailing Wall in the Old City. I was a little taken back that the first people I met there were beggars then by the Hasidic Jews that pounced on Jews approaching the Wall to engage them in conversation. They reminded me of Christian fundamentalist. As I neared the wall I removed my sandals and approached the wall barefoot. This eastern tradition of respect at holy places is so much a part of me that I felt it would have been disrespectful to have worn shoes. I touched my forehead to the wall and placed my prayer in on of the cracks.
Next the cave where Jesus was buried and arose from the dead. This was one of places in all Israel that I felt drawn too and it’s because of the two Israelis that Julie Blum introduced me to at Dr. Raju’s clinic just before I left. When the women talked about her experience at this cave I knew I had to go there, so go there I did. At the cave I was waiting in line with about 15 Germans when I once again broke down and started to cry, uncontrollably, except that this time I could feel the emotion that was bursting out of me. I felt incredibly sorry for all the hurt I’ve caused everyone in this life and in all previous lives. This emotion was so strong that I was bent over crying my heart out and saying over and over again that I was sorry, that I was so sorry to everyone and truly feeling it. In the past I’ve been sorry for hurting others but never have I felt sorry on such a cosmic scale. Once I entered the cave the crying stopped and the rest of the time was uneventful. To have this experience may have been the reason I was brought to Israel and at what more appropriate place then where Jesus arose from the dead.
After meditating at the place where John the Baptist was born and having a fabulous lunch at the best Lebanese restaurant in Israel I headed north to the Sea of Galilee where I stayed for several days at the Sidhi Village. The Village is located on top of a tall hill overlooking the Sea of Galilee area, a very beautiful place.
Only two places attracted me; the birthplace of Mary Magdalene and the place where Jesus started his ministry with the Sermon on the Mount. For some odd reason Mary Magdalene really pulled me. Her birthplace was alongside the road with no markings, no church and really was almost non-existent, but every time I passed it my heart just leaped towards it. I don’t know why she attracted me so. Every time I think of her at that location I feel emotion but have no idea what emotion I’m feeling. Anyway, it feels good and I’m sure I’m becoming a better person for it.
Jesus picked a great place to start his ministry, right on top of a hill overlooking the Sea of Galilee, the kind of place I would have chosen. It was incredibly peaceful there. I then wanted to find the source of the Jordan River but no one knew where it was and I didn’t have the time to find it on this trip. I felt sorry for this most holy river that it was not honored at its source. Next time in Israel I will find Her source and honor Her there.
I then traveled into the Golan Heights and went almost as far north as I could then turned around and headed south past Jerusalem and into the desert.
The road from Be’brsheva to Eilat through the Negve was some of the most inspiring landscape I’ve ever seen. It was the desert but my god was it beautiful with a wide variety of mountains, caverns, cliffs, all multicolored. Around almost every turn or over every mountain pass the view took my breath away. The most beautiful sight was near the end of the trip as I came over a mountain pass I could see this tall magnificent mountain range that ran all the way along the Jordan border to the Sea. Absolutely incredible!
My stay in Eilat was uneventful for it was a pure tourist town and the special events that it offered I couldn’t partake in, so I headed north to the Kibbutz at En Gedi on the Dead Sea. This is one of those places I felt was a gift from God to the world. The Kibbutz was at the base of tall cliffs that ran along the Dead Sea. Going back into those cliffs were canyons that lead far back into the mountains. You stand in front of the cliffs and it looks like a desert but walk back into the canyons and you enter a little slice of heaven with waterfalls, small lakes, streams, plants and flowers. Just amazing! I could easily have spent a long time there. My last day in the desert I visited Qumran where the Dead Sea Scrolls where found, not as nice as En Gedi but worth the trip. Then back to Jerusalem.
My last day in Israel I spent at the Mount of Olives in the Garden of Gethsemane. There I had no desire to visit anyplace but just to meditate which I did for several hours.
My last experience and the culmination of the entire trip to the holy land was at the airport upon leaving (it was actually at the airport in Istanbul where I had a 10 hour layover. The airlines gave me a room at a fine hotel to rest and it was passing through their security as I returned to the airport that I felt the trip was over.) As I passed security I felt my trip to Israel was over and at that moment I was filled with humility. Every cell in my body was humility. For hours, as I walked the long corridors of the airport I was filled with just plain, simple humility. I was in pain and feeling a lot of discomfort but none of that mattered for I was walking humility. I would walk very slow, sometimes holding on to the hand rail but all the time feeling such deep humility. Both of these experiences of pain and humility together created in me a feeling I’ve never had before. While slowly walking the corridors of that airport there were times when I almost felt like a saint…
Though on the surface of Israel there is a lot of tension, so much so that you can feel it everywhere, underneath that, this land is truly holy and this you can also easily feel.
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