The Holy Land (Days 1-6)

Sorry friends, but my brain becomes so saturated with knowledge, spirituality, sadness, joy, and incredulity each day from the hours of 7 am-5 pm, that by the time I get to sit down with a laptop, all I want to do is make sure the world hasn’t ended. Or that Miley Cyrus isn’t running America. I repeat myself, though.

By the end of Day 2 I had already switched from “Does this smell good enough to wear?” to “Does this not smell bad enough to rewear?”

To dive right in, here are some random thoughts I’ve had over the past 5 days:

  • Throughout all of time, there seems to be one thing that men have mastered, and that is the art of flirting and flattery to make a sale.
  • If you are in another person’s culture and aren’t sure whether you should say or do something, err on the safe side and don’t do it. You are in their home. Be respectful. All I will say is that I understand a little bit more now why Americans get a bad rap.
  • Speaking of Americans, holy cow was I blessed to grow up somewhere where English is the official language. Many sites in the Holy Land have descriptions and explanations written in Hebrew or Aramaic, and then English. I don’t know if I would get nearly as much out of the experience if I was Italian, Portuguese, etc.
  • The Mount of Olives is probably one of the most picturesque places I’ve ever laid eyes on.

In short, the trip has been the absolute journey—physical and spiritual—of a lifetime. I’ve travelled across the same sea on which Jesus walked. I’ve stood in the circle—the exact spot—where it is believed Paul was brought before Felix, Festus, and Agrippa. I’ve placed my hands in the Jordan River, where Jesus was baptized reluctantly by John. I’ve been to Capernaum to see the home of Peter and the synagogue where Jesus preached. I’ve touched the star marking the place of Jesus’ birth, and only a few feet away, the marble that is laid over his manger. I’ve been to the place where the end of the world will begin—Har Megiddo—which we translate as Armageddon. I’ve taken pictures of the town of Mary Magdalene, the field where the angels appeared to the shepherds when Jesus was born, the oldest church in the world, the ruins of Caesarea, and so much more. I say this not to brag about my worldly experiences or travels, but to emphasize the fact that these are real, historical, tangible places, events, and things.

Something clicks in your head when you are walking the streets of Nazareth and it’s no longer a far off land. There’s a piece of heart that moves into its rightful place when you see the stone on which Jesus multiplied the five loaves and two fish to feed the 5,000, and stand crying in an old stone church.

The tears were even worse today, Sunday. We began the trek of Jesus, visiting the Garden of Gethsemane and the place where Judas betrayed Him.

Jesus, forgive us, I prayed, and I heard, Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.

Jesus, I’m sorry, I told Him, and I heard, Do not be afraid.

I’ve been apologizing to Jesus for as long as I can remember. I apologize for my personal sins—the lying, the lusting, the everyday greed, selfishness, and pride—but also for what took place so long ago.

I’m sorry, I always tell him. I wish it didn’t have to be this way. And when he asks God for the cup of suffering to pass from his lips, I beg it to be so.

But since way before my time, and for long after I am gone, the Father has a plan of how the world should work that is so far beyond my understanding. (And praise Him for that, because we’d all be toast if I could comprehend it).
What an absolutely beautiful thing it is to watch people worship at the places where Jesus or his followers were. Yes, we must be careful not to worship the icons and sites themselves, but if it draws you closer to God himself, there is no harm in being moved by the experience. It’s no more miraculous to touch the rock from the Garden of Gethsemane than it is to walk away from a horrific car accident unscathed, and don’t we praise God in both?

If you’re interested in hearing more about the trip, the Holy Land, Jesus, Christianity, being overemotional, not packing enough shirts for a trip, or just talking, feel free to get in touch with me by leaving a comment below.

Hey, you’ve made it to the end. Can I reward you with pictures?

Israeli food: pretty darn good, but I confess I stuck mostly to the bread and meats. (Whoops--that's what living with a Filipino family for two weeks does to you.) I haven't been able to kick this rice obsession for a month now. Pictured here is salad, onion load, bread, falafel, and hummus. PS: the falafel tastes just like Chicago's.
Israeli food: pretty darn good, but I confess I stuck mostly to the bread and meats. (Whoops–that’s what living with a Filipino family for two weeks does to you.) I haven’t been able to kick this rice obsession for a month now. Pictured here is salad, onion loaf with barbecue sauce, bread, falafel, and hummus. PS: the falafel tastes just like Chicago’s.
YO. Check it out. These are the ruins from a synagogue in Capernaum where Jesus preached. Where. Jesus. Preached.
YO. Check it out. These are the ruins from a synagogue in Capernaum where Jesus preached. Where. Jesus. Preached.
A view of the Sea of Galilee from the dock where we got gelato one evening. Just a pleasant stroll from our hotel in Tiberias. No biggie. *hyperventilates*
The Holy Land is a strange, strange meshing of ancient, traditional, and Biblical, and modern, secular, and urban. This is a view of the Sea of Galilee from the dock where we got gelato one evening. Just a pleasant stroll from our hotel in Tiberias. No biggie. *hyperventilates* 
Jerusalem, y'all.
Jerusalem, y’all.
WWJD? Commercialize, sell, and make a profit. Among many of the atrocities I saw was the selling of water bottles at the River Jordan, where for $10 you could be baptized in the same river that Jesus was. There are entire stores built around holy sites, not to mention the vendors and beggars that know exactly where the tourists go. One of the ones that made me the most mad was the fact that there were two vendors inside the walls of the Garden of Gethsemane, set up to sell chargers and batteries.
WWJD? Commercialize, sell, and make a profit. Among many of the atrocities I saw was the selling of water bottles at the River Jordan, where (for $10) you could be baptized in the same river that Jesus was. There are entire stores built around holy sites, not to mention the vendors and beggars that know exactly where the tourists go. One of the ones that made me the most mad was the vendors inside the walls of the Garden of Gethsemane set up to sell chargers and batteries.
Church of the Nativity. Pilgrims come from all over the world to touch the place where Jesus was born. It is marked by a 14-pointed star that reads "Hic de Virgine Maria lesus Christus natus est" or "Here Jesus Christ was born to the Virgin Mary."
Church of the Nativity. Pilgrims come from all over the world to touch the place where Jesus was born. It is marked by a 14-pointed star that reads “Hic de Virgine Maria lesus Christus natus est” or “Here Jesus Christ was born to the Virgin Mary.”
This picture is a little clearer. It's located in the Grotto of the Nativity.
This picture is a little clearer. It’s located in the Grotto of the Nativity.
Jericho, "The oldest city of the world"
Jericho, “The oldest city of the world”

Stay tuned for my second posting on visiting Israel–“The Holy Land (Days 7-9).”

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