Question of the week: “So aside from being arrested for trying to bring aid to Gaza what else would take you (forced or not) to Israel?”
Despite what you may read, see or believe Israel is much more than a conflict zone. It is one of the most historic, cultural and above all spiritual places I have ever visited.
Whether you go seeking answers to divine questions, want to discover ancient history and culture or need to see the fraught political and religious scene for yourself – the Israeli experience is one that will amaze, confuse and above all intrigue you.
This is one destination which I would implore you to research before you visit. A basic idea of the history of the country is really not enough. If you don't put the effort in before you leave home, you will be left bewildered once within Israeli borders (defined or not).
Although religion and spirituality is interesting to everyone, those who believe, who have faith in a a greater being, part of a church or not should find their visit to Israel extra special.
Each region in Israel is different geographically, but one of the prettiest area is that of Galilee, here where Jesus was reared you will find Nazareth, Mount Beatitudes, Capernaum, the Sea of Galilee and Jordan River. A beautiful area, the Sea of Galilee (a lake) looks just how those who would imagine it from the bible – a working lake with fishermen still hauling in fish.
For me the place which stood out in this area was the River Jordan, where Jesus was baptised. It looked like paradise with flowers in bloom, otters and fish swimming merrily and people singing hymns as those dressed all in white descended down the steps into the important water.
|The Jordan River, Israel|
Close by to the Dead Sea (a must visit) in the south is the majestic Masada mountain. An important site for the Jews, Masada was a site of mass suicide by a group of rebel Jewish who would not allow themselves to be captured by the Romans. It is difficult not to feel proud of those rebels, to admire their will and to reflect on the Jewish people on top of that desert fortress.
Jerusalem. The word evokes emotions, feelings and pictures that probably differ for everyone. Some people see Jesus dying on a cross, others see the Wailing Wall or the Dome of the Rock. Others again see violence and destruction. But no matter how you feel about this place, it is epic.
Religion is central here, but so is history.
The ancient city is surrounded by walls, inside it is a maze of tiny streets, of Jewish, Christan, Muslim and Armenian quarters, school children, trades people, pilgrims ans tourists. Despite the outward appearance this is a working live city.
Outside the great walls, the Garden of Gethsemane is an important site for Christians. Although the garden is disappointing, the church makes up for it. Inside the town, I was let down by the lack of a table in the Room of the Last Supper, but did not expect to see the tomb of King David underneath the building.
|The Stone of Anointing, also known as The Stone of Unction, which claims to be the spot where Jesus' body was prepared for burial.|
And then there is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. It is massive, it is dark and bright, you shuffle upstairs and down, you see blood stains on stones, wood from crucifixes, alters and shrines. And in the middle is the tomb, the tomb of the resurrection.
“Here Jesus was crucified in the middle of two others – and here is where he resurrected.”
Simple to say, not so easy to comprehend.
But there it is, in front you, you can touch the stone, you can see the sacred decorations, hear the wailing pilgrims, smell the incense.
|Looking up at the Wailing Wall|
Away from the intensity of the Holy Sepulchre is the Wailing wall. Mysterious and majestic, it beckons you, you move closer, you touch it – see the requests, hear the crying. And it is special.
The glare from the gold roof of the Dome of the Rock, commands your respect and your intrigue.
No all your questions will not be answered in Israel – but ask the right ones and you may be enlightened.