I know that The Eagles may sing about it, but Israel is the REAL “Hotel California.” “You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.” Once you have visited Israel, it get’s inside of you, and you won’t ever be the same. Waking up to the Muslim prayer call, or hearing the bells of the Christian churches ring out on Sunday are a few of my favorite sounds of the Old City. So is getting close enough to the Western Wall to hear a devout Jew whisper her prayer to God. This is why I can say, visit Israel and be transformed!
Old City of Jerusalem
First, the mix of three of the world’s largest religions in the ancient city provides such texture and contrast. This contrast is what I love most about the Old City. The regular sightings of Orthodox Jews, the bright stalls where merchants sell their wares, the streets and gardens that have weathered thousands of years and regimes; provide a setting that is unequalled anywhere else in the world.
City of Paradoxes
As a result, Jerusalem is not what you expect. It is a city of paradoxes. It’s older and newer than you imagine it would be. Stepping into the Church of the Holy Sepulchre on a hot crowded day may feel anything but holy. And yet, the same building just opened, in the dark of the morning hours may prove to be one of the holiest places you ever visited. Walking where Jesus walked is actually very difficult to do since most of the city during that time is still underground. And yet, being in that environment, feeling the energy, and being in the same city where heaven and hell faced off. This is one of the most extraordinary feelings in the world.
Eating food you are unaccustomed to may or may not agree with your digestion initially. But biting into a freshly baked pita, smeared with warm hummus or drinking a freshly-squeezed pomegranate juice may be your new favorite thing. One of my favorite things from our last trip was eating in the dining room of our hotel, right inside the walls of the Old City. The giant dining floor hosted Orthodox Jews, Greek Orthodox Christians, and pilgrims like us from all over the world. Sitting down to “break bread” with so many different people with different beliefs and backgrounds is a joy, an education and an opportunity to love one’s neighbor.
Outside of Jerusalem
Then there is what is outside the city. Hiking the hills to the desert fortress of Masada, or enjoying a therapeutic float in the Dead Sea are both experiences you cannot live anywhere else. (I may even have a small crush on Herod the Great. He was a horrible human, but BOY COULD HE BUILD!) And Galilee–what to say about Galilee! If you are looking for the peace and beauty of a place where the Savior actually spent most of his time, Galilee is the place. Calm, tranquil, thoughtful and reverent is Galilee.
Sacred and Special
In conclusion, more than any other area I have visited, this place CHANGES ME. It requires that I stretch, look inward as well as outward, that I examine and apply, and that I transform to meet the opportunities and challenges this land and this experience has to offer me. This transformation is what makes this place so sacred and special to me. Come with me to the Holy Land. Visit Israel and be transformed!
Learn more about Mandy by visiting her website: https://www.mandybrookegreen.
and listening to her podcast: reflectinglight.org