Our Trip to the Holy Land (The Last Part)

“This next week is going to go so fast,” Pastor Dudley said as we sat on the steps in Caesarea that first day.

My mom and I were still in disbelief that we were actually, physically in Israel, and I was reeling from the long travel day and the complete upending of my normal routine. I was excited to be on vacation, I was excited to be with my mom, but I was scared to be away from the things I knew to be safe and familiar.

I had a hard time believing the week would go fast. But it did.

Though each day was busy, and at times exhausting, they blended together with ease, and waking up to go on an adventure became our new routine. As did chocolate croissants at breakfast, and a sampling of multiple desserts at dinner. We’d found a home in this trip, and suddenly, it was almost time for us to leave.

Monday April 25th  

We started our day at the Garden Tomb, which is one of two places believed to be the burial site of Jesus. We got to walk inside and imagine what it must have been like to be Mary Magdalene, who came to find the tomb empty on the third day. We also got to take communion in the garden area, repeating what the disciples did shortly before Jesus died.  

And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” Luke 22:19-20

I’d taken communion since I was little, but to do so a couple hundred feet from where Jesus may have resurrected was something I never expected to experience. The garden area was so peaceful, so quiet. It was a place that truly felt holy.

From there we went into the Old City of Jerusalem.

“Stay close my babies,” Ruby said as we began to usher our way through the throngs of tourists. “Yalla,” she said. Let’s go.

The day was a marathon of information and architecture. Everywhere I looked I saw a view like I’d never seen before. The ceilings of every church were breathtaking, and the shops that lined the streets, both in the open air and within the tunnel like paths, were unique and colorful. Shop owners stood at the door, always quick to offer you a two-for-one deal, and locals weaved in and out of the tourists on scooters and in cars, unflinching and in a hurry to go about their daily lives.

“I went to school there,” Ruby said, pointing up at a second story window, and I looked up, amazed. Though I suppose she felt the same way I did when people asked what it was like to grow up in *Los Angeles.* There were good parts and bad parts, but it was the home I knew.

We walked through the City of David and down the 360 steps to Hezekiah’s tunnel; we visited the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus prayed to God in agony the night he was betrayed and arrested; and we ended the day on the Mount of Olives, where we looked out at the city of Jerusalem in panoramic views and took a group picture that included Ruby riding on a camel.

I pictured the model we’d seen at the Israel Museum, trying to remember the route Jesus took on the day of his death. My FitBit was impressed with the work we put in, but I don’t think it was half of his walk.

Tuesday April 25th

We were given two options for Tuesday: get up at 5:00am and go for a hike, or get up at 6:00am and get on a gondola. The Masada Snake Path is just under two miles with about 1200 feet of elevation gain. While strenuous in its own right, there is also no shade, so as the sun rises, it begins to beat down on the dirt path, adding an extra degree of difficulty.

My mom and I decided to pass on the hike, and instead joined the majority of our group that took the gondola to the top, where we met up with the brave souls who made the climb. From there we got to walk around the ruins of Masada, the story of which was made into a mini-series in the 1980’s. Like much of Israel, it offered a landscape like nothing I’d seen before, with views of the Dead Sea and a vast desert.

From Masada we visited Ein Gedi and Qumran National Park, the latter of which is where the Dead Sea Scroll caves are located. But the highlight of the day was floating in the Dead Sea.

It had been a long, hot day—even longer for those who had decided to hike—and so the walk down to the water was exciting. It looked refreshing, even if it was upwards of 30% salt. We treaded carefully into the water, which was murky and opaque. The sea floor was uneven and slippery, but the water was cool. My mom and I floated out into an open area and laughed as we bobbed up and down, like bobbers on the end of a fishing line. It took little effort to simply sit there and float.

We spread the mud from the banks onto our arms and legs and were amazed at how soft it made our skin, then we floated out a little farther to the clearer water near the buoys, and let the water hold us up once again.  

It was a moment that I began to miss even as it was happening, as I knew that in a few days’ time I’d be home, back to the stresses and chores that still existed in my real life. I knew as soon as we got on our plane, I’d wish I was back here, floating in the Dead Sea, without a care in a world, next to my mom.

And I did.

Wednesday April 26th

On our last day in Jerusalem, we went back to the Old City to see two of my most anticipated sites: The Dome of the Rock and the Western Wall.

Israel had already marveled me with its unique and stunning architecture. But I’d had my sights on the Dome of the Rock ever since we came through the tunnel to Jerusalem. And it did not disappoint.

Going up to the Temple Mount however, I was reminded how much religious culture is rooted in Israel. And how many sacred places exist in Jewish, Muslim and Christian faiths.  Respect is required. Respect creates both the ease and the tension that exists there. It walks hand in hand with both.

At the Western Wall, people of all faiths come to pray. There are chairs set up and shelves full of prayer books that people can read from. There is also a divide down the center, separating men and women.

When you get closer to the wall, you can see slips of paper tucked into the crevices of the stones. Prayers that people bring to one of the holiest sites in the country. Perhaps even the world.

“Some people like to believe it is like putting a letter in God’s mailbox,” Ruby said.

My mom and I delivered our letters, and we each put hands on the wall and said additional prayers for friends and family back home.

We ended the day on the Southern Steps, where Pastor Dudley preached, and Nikko sang for the final time on our trip. The sun was high and hot, but the city sat in front of us mesmerizing as ever. I was proud of the pictures I’d taken during our trip, but I still felt like nothing could truly capture what I was seeing—what we’d seen over the last 10 days.

I was going to miss the bus, where I’d spent hours looking out the window, my mind at ease.

I was going to miss Ruby. I’d grown fond of following her around, knowing she would always take me in the right direction and had the answer to any question.

I was going to miss the differences I’d found in this country, as much as I’d been missing the familiarity of my own.

It was remarkable to be thrust into an entirely different world, where “normal”, “typical”, and “average” mean different things than they do back home. I’d learned so much about a culture of people that wake up each morning, as I do, with an idea of what they want their life to be. And I’d found many ways to appreciate the differences and similarities.

On our journey home, I would think often of a poem I saw in the Holocaust History Museum:

When I grow up and get to be twenty

I will travel and see this world of plenty

In a bird with an engine I will sit myself down

Take off and fly into space, far above the ground

I’ll fly, I’ll cruise and soar up high

Above a world so lovely, into the sky

-Abramek Koplowicz, killed at age 14 in Auschwitz

Every time I travel, I’m reminded of just how plenty this world is. This trip filled my cup. It gave me memories that I know I will have my whole life. I will forever recall this special trip to this special place with my mom.

And though I might not remember everything—every detail, every building, every significance in the Bible—I will remember the feeling I had at the end of each day. The way the facts and figures buzzed in my head as I tried to make sense of them all. And the way the answers to questions I didn’t even know I had about the Bible began to click into place. I’ll remember the sound of the electronic voice in the elevator that always made my mom and I laugh, and the way Ruby said, “yes my babies” whenever we had a question. I will remember all the times my mom and I glanced at each other, to say “wow” or “no way” or “can you believe that?” And I will remember floating in the Dead Sea, feeling light and carefree, thinking for the hundredth time, I can’t believe we actually made it to Israel.


One response to “Our Trip to the Holy Land (The Last Part)”

  1. So awesome! Glad you are home safe and sound after an amazing trip with your mama!! ❤

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: