On occasion, I recall the trip made to Israel a few years ago.

Somewhat disappointingly, I didn’t have any real moments of revelation or epiphanies while I was there (not sure what I was expecting, though). It was more the collective experience- the air travel, the first glimpse of the Temple Mount from our “home base” at St. Peter in Gallicantu; the culture shock (though not as shocking as one might imagine), the real-time experience of Jerusalem and the road trip through much of the country- from Beersheba, Mitzpe Ramon and Sde Boker in the Negev Desert to the foothills of Mt. Hermon and the border with Lebanon; from the city of Akko, along the Mediterranean Sea, to disputed territory in the Golan Heights, little more than a stone’s throw from Syria.

While there was much more to see (we didn’t get to visit Bethany or Bethlehem, among other places), we did see and experience the desert south, the fertile Hula Valley, the Dead Sea, Masada, En Gedi, Qumran, the Sea of Galilee, Nazareth, Cana, Mt. Arbel, Mt. Tabor, one source of the Jordan River at Banyas Springs, Capernaum, Tiberias, Tabgha, and of course Jerusalem (Old and New)- Yad Vashem, open air markets, haggling with a merchant in the Old City, the Kidron Valley, Mount of Olives, Mt. Zion, Garden of Gethsemane, the Temple Mount.

Banyas Falls, near Caesarea Philippi

And the food- ah, the falafel and hummus and tabouleh and shawarma and Turkish coffee and… pizza?

There were check points in the West Bank. There were teenagers in military garb carrying automatic weapons, practically rubbing shoulders with tourists and schoolchildren. There were reminders throughout of this uneasy co-existence of Jew and Christian and Muslim. Yet it seemed, at least on the surface, that most of the time folks were just trying to get through the day– go to school, make a living, worship their God.

Jerusalem is a vibrant and noisy place. We had only begun to plumb the depths of its historical and Biblical significance when it was time to head home.

Dome of the Rock and Wailing Wall at the Temple Mount          Old City

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