When my friend Jessica asked in November if I wanted to go to Jerusalem, I took a moment to think about it. I had never been anywhere in the Middle East. I am comfortable with Europe, but this would be something new entirely. Having grown up in church in Los Angeles, I knew all the Bible stories by heart and remember studying the map of Israel in my Bible when I was (bored) in church. How could I say no when I was only a short flight away? So off we went.
First of all, Jerusalem was so much greener than I imagined. Hilly and rocky, with yellow wild flowers and tall, skinny trees. The city is built out of creamy limestone. The old city has four quarters: jewish, christian, muslim and Armenian. We went on some walking tours to get more information, which was helpful! It struck me as a city full of contradictions- a devout jewish man praying for peace at the Western Wall right next to a an Israeli soldier with a machine gun. I was taken by the complexity of the milieu.
One day we did a bus tour into the Judean desert. We climbed the mountain to the fortress of Masada, which was built by king Herod the Great as a military look out and retreat of sorts. Then we went to the Oasis park called Ein Gedi. It had beautiful waterfalls and gentle rivers. I think I finally understand the concept of a desert oasis! But my favorite part was swimming in the Dead Sea, which is HUGE! I thought it would be a little lake. The mud is good for the skin, so of course we covered ourselves in it! The water stung a little bit because it is so salty, but it was fun to lean back and float effortlessly.
We also went on a tour of the tunnels under the city built by King Hezekiah. Its so funny: the tour guide was asking all these questions about jewish history and I knew the answers automatically- buried deep from years of Vacation Bible School I guess! She was like “How old was king Solomon when he was crowned?” and I blurted out “12!” No idea where that came from haha!
I was fascinated with how the jewish religion emphases outward expressions of faith (clothing, behavior, hair, food, etc.). This is so different than the ways we are taught to express faith at home in America, which is more internal. I loved seeing an entire city (or section of the city) on the same page, with religion at the center.
Overall, it was a wonderful experience. I’m so glad I went and would definitely recommend it. Enjoy the photos below!
The long hike up to Masada was worth it for this view!The Dead Sea!Israelis sure know how to cater to white western protestants hahaThe Dome of the Rock was gorgeous! We couldn’t go inside because we are not muslim but it was stunning!