We have been twice to Israel, and it is harder for me to concentrate my thoughts and write of only one or two isolated experiences here than any other place we have visited.
Jerusalem (above): Dome of the Rock in
upper right center was recovered in gold leaf the year after we were there (1991). Ancient cemetery in foreground.
This is not because of any personal religious identification, but because there are so many different “Israels”- one Israel for each of the major religions, one Israel for ancient times, and yet another Israel for modern
We were standing near Rachael’s tomb, just across the street from where a chap was selling computer parts and accessories. The juxtaposition of Biblical next to ultra modern can be jarring, though I admit my “bias” kept
me from feeling this same clash of culture in Rome, at the Coliseum, or anywhere else where antiquity co exists with the present.
I had a cousin who was born in the Holy Land, and grew up with Moshe Dyan, the great military leader. Both of them were in the underground movement that was responsible for getting the British out of the area prior to the formation of the modern
State of Israel.
Nate at camel stop on our way to the Dead Sea. Nasty of temperament, they smell bad, bite and spit.
This cousin, Chaim, and his delightful, sensitive wife, Ziona, took Nancy and me around the country each time we were there, so we got a true “insider’s view”.
They took us everywhere, including a trip to the kibbutz where one of their daughters lives. This daughter has 3 children, and each went into military service, as is required in Israel, as they got
older. Every time a bomb goes off, Ziona, the grandmother, dies a little inside with the fear one of her grandchildren will be killed.
For them, instant, unexpected death is just another part of life. It is impossible for us, even after 9/11, to imagine what they live with every day.
We went up the Golan Heights and stopped at a gun emplacement that had been used to fire shells into Israeli kibbutzim in the valleys below before the Israelis took the Golan from
the Syrians. The guns are a sober reminder of why Israel must be so diligent in maintaining security.
Harmless now, I sit on gun that killed who knows how many...
Chaim fulfilled a childhood dream of mine: to swim in the Dead Sea. One day, very early in the morning, we left from our hotel in Jerusalem and headed down toward Massada. Driving
along the road, we passed an area where you can see caves in the distance, and he explained those were the caves near where the Dead Sea Scrolls had been discovered.
We continued on toward Massada, arriving well before the sun was high and hot in the desert. We got as far as the end of the cable car ride, then had to turn back because the rest of
the trip to the top of the mesa is reachable only by stairway, and was not wheelchair accessible.
We returned using the same road, stopping off at Ein Geddi, the kibbutz which runs the access center for those wishing to bathe in the Dead Sea.
Leaving Nancy briefly in the company of several attendants, Chaim and I put on bathing suits, left the dressing area, and began the walk down to the sea. He had neglected to fully prepare
me, and I did not have sandals or slippers to protect my feet from the burning heat of the boardwalk you must take to reach the water.
We stopped by a huge bin full of black mud, and, using a shovel left for this purpose, proceeded to slather mud over one another- a protection from the searing rays of the sun. I would
have traded my left arm for my camera at that point, but alas, I did not have it, so there are no photographs of this ridiculous Nate, in a too skimpy bathing suit, covered in black goop!
We entered the water and the feeling of it, and of being there, defy description. I am not gifted enough to find the words to tell you what it meant to me to be there, in the Holy Land,
among all my ancestors..