Tuesday, January 19, 2016


 There are too many words and too many photos of our trip to Israel. It was so much fun to join the group of 40 under the leadership of Ross Lockhart, a professor at St. Andrew's College at the Vancouver School of Theology in UBC. We started at Tel Aviv, and Jaffa and toured our way through Bethlehem and Jerusalem. There were lots of archeology lessons, stories of the ancient people of Israel, the Romans and Crusaders and the building, tearing down and rebuilding.
 Israel is so beautiful. The January weather was so pleasant and the range from coast line to desert to mountain top was astounding.
 Our guide, Shimon Zemer is a bit of a rock star in the tour guide world. He served in the Israeli army and has taught Christianity to Jewish scholars. But he's funny and patient and had his hands full with us.

I fell in love with the olive trees. Old and young, they are so strong and elegant.
In Nazareth we visited a 1st century village that was reconstructed from the ruins of a vineyard.
 We stood on the top of Masada and looked at the Dead Sea. Then we swam in it and covered ourselves with the black mud. It was a silly time.

 The walls began to speak to us as we discovered the different ages of building and the signature of King Herod or the crusaders.

An interesting demonstration of spindle spinning, yarn dying and rug weaving.

 We enjoyed many quiet moments of reflection and lesson. There were hardly any other pilgrims around. At the Sea of Galilee we gathered at the water at sunset.

Ornate iron work makes me think of my sister.
I am designing a needlepoint inspired by all the Roman tile work we saw. There are few barriers. You can touch and take photos and even walk on the treasures.

 There were many stairs and trails. I was happy to be up for most of the trails. 
 At Masada, we took a cable car up to the top of the mountain that King Herod built. The stones are still there telling the stories of sieges.
We could see the Dead Sea in the distance and later floated in it and covered ourselves with its healing black mud. Such a silly group when there is fun to be had.
 The gardens captured me. It is dryer and warmer than my home but many of the plants were the same. I was enchanted by the rosemary hedges and the cyclamen planted like pansies.
An unknown beauty, Mom identified it as cyrtanthus mackenii. It originates in South Africa.
 We sang in the amazing acoustics of the chapels. Our group was especially talented and it was such a blessing to be able to freely play with harmonies. Some of the hymns were familiar, but we loved learning new ones. The Taize music was especially touching.

 Bread. Nuff said.

D bought a shofar. It is a ceremonial horn made from the horn of the kudu. He was able to play it like a bugle.

Roman ruins are still being unearthed. I had no idea that archeology is such a living science. There are endless digs to work on and endless treasures to be discovered.
We were invited by friends from church and we made many more friends. This was on a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee.
Jerusalem was astounding. The golden walls. The history piled on history. The different religions living passionately cheek by jowl. Yet it is a living city with families and congregations.
 A typical stall with all the bling.
 We visited the Western Wall of the second temple. The most holy site for the Jewish people.
 And we went into the tunnels below that reveal the history of people who kept on worshipping and building. My prayers were placed in the wall far below in quiet where only women worship.
 D rode a camel on the Mount of Olives. Great fun. I fed Tristiania bird out of my hand at Masada. There were innumerable cats trundling about, well fed and ready to be pet. We were charmed.

Our last evening saw the end of Shabbat. The paths of the city were quiet. It seemed like months, or just hours. The flight home was a bit brutal (over 24 hours) but we are back in our comfortable home and connecting with family and friends. I had a poem attack yesterday morning and was able to get it all on paper. This is auspicious in a year in which I hope to write more.
I feel like a real pilgrim. I didn't get blisters, but I was changed by the close proximity to history and grace.

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