|The Convent Guesthouse We Stayed At|
We were not going to make the same mistake we made last time. We were going to make sure we were awake and downstairs on time (i.e. before everyone else). Evan and I had arrived in the convent kitchen early and actually got to slow down and look at the offerings: coffee, milk, juice, bread, sliced cheese, cereal and cake. The cake was definitely not there yesterday (it was a Friday during lent after all). We ate slowly, trying to read a map of Israel in French, waiting for our companions who were perhaps surprised that we managed to get our act together this morning. We were ready for another day.
You See those Koi Fish? Those are Decedents from the Original Fish: Church of the Multiplication
|I present to you the oldest Christian baptismal font in the world!|
The first two places we went in the morning were literally right next door to us…on either side. We walked to both of these places from where we were staying and could actually see the pilgrims on the other side of the fence when we woke up. We walked to the left (well up the hill out of our gate to the left through the other gate and back downhill….it would have been nice if there had been a shortcut). This was the location of the Church of the Loaves and Fishes, where Jesus fed the 500 with 5 loaves of bread and two fish.
|The Courtyard at the Church of the Multiplication|
The first thing we talked about was actually outside the church. There was an old….a really old…..I think Jessa said it was the oldest Christian baptismal font in the whole world. By the time we saw it (thousands of years later I assume), it is not where you would want to get baptized now. It’s basically a bird bath (albeit a large bird bath) in the shape of a cross with pretty gross water and tadpoles swimming around in it. So much life grows from the ancient stones of our fathers.
|The \”original\” Koi fish|
The next place we entered was a courtyard that, to me had a distinctly Spanish feel with its
archways and red tiled roof. There were other tourists here, but not as many as there were in Nazareth and it was a much quieter, more church-like atmosphere. There was a nice olive tree in the middle of the courtyard with a small fish pond, populated with Koi who we joked were the decedents of the original fish Jesus multiplied.
|Very detailed Egyptian inspired mosaics|
|The rock underneath the altar is the rock Jesus used to break the bread|
The church itself was pretty plain, except for the 5thcentury tiled floor that told the story of the flooding of the Nile, with depictions of distinctly Egyptian flora and fauna. The rest of it, however, was very sparsely decorated and the pews themselves were simple wood with no kneelers. This is a very different environment than the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth, which is much more grandiose. Underneath the altar is a rock where this miracle is supposed to have taken place, where Jesus actually placed the fish and bread. Right in front of that is another, quite famous mosaic depicting two fish and a basket of bread with four loaves on it. The reason there are only four, is that communion (i.e. Jesus himself) makes the fifth and final loaf.
It is definitely a spot that exudes simplicity and humility. I could see, particularly on days when there are no tourists (do those days ever exist?) it would be very peaceful to sit in the mostly empty, bare-boned room looking at the Spartan altar and meditating on how Jesus continues to feed his people using only some bread and some wine.
Birds on the Cross: Church of the Primacy of St. Peter
|Church of the Primacy of St. Peter|
On the other side of the convent is the Church of the Primacy of St. Peter. It commemorates the spot where Jesus appeared to Peter after his resurrection and basically told Peter to “feed his sheep”. When I came home to tell my mom about my journey here, she couldn\’t even remember this story. She kept trying to say it must have been when they originally met. But in fact, one of the last stories in the Gospel is when Jesus appeared to Peter and asked him whether or not Peter loved Him. Jesus asked three times (to make up for the triple denial Peter is so famous for during the passion) and then told Peter to go out and tend His flock.
|Christ\’s Table: where he made breakfast|
It’s a story you might remember, or not, but the feeling I took away from this place really helped give a contextual sense to the whole thing. If you put yourself in Peter’s perspective for a second, Jesus has just been crucified. His journey following the most influential people that has ever existed, pretty much bar none, is suddenly and brutally over. The question “Now what?” must have been at the forefront of his mind. When deep tragedy descends on us, oftentimes we walk around in a bit of a haze. We are shocked that the worst is upon us and we may not always be able to process what has happened when a love one dies perhaps. What do we do? “Now what?” rings into our practical brains like an unwavering gong. The living continue living until they don’t. It’s as simple and as complex as that. When everything is stripped away from you, where do you go?
Peter was in this precise situation. His savior had just died. What’s a disciple to do? So, he went home, probably in a daze, just going through the motions. When the whole world was burning, he went back to being a fisherman because it seemed like the only logical answer to the ominous question. Then Jesus came back to have one more conversation: A conversation that many of us need when a loved one disappears from our life in often tragic circumstances. A conversation that focuses not on the death, but the moving forward of life, not only for Peter himself, but for the Church, for us. It was his ultimate wakeup call. “Peter, you are still in the land of the living, you must go out and live! Carry the legacy, My legacy into the world so that your salvation can extend far beyond you and reach into the lives of billions to come!”
|The birds on the cross.|
We know that this is the correct place because of the large stair like stones that one of the earliest, female pilgrims described in her writing. This brings me to another point that I found quite amusing. A lot of places in the Holy Land were deemed to be the legitimate place because of what female pilgrims wrote about their journeys. A female pilgrim (Egeria / Aetheria /Sylvia possibly) wrote a very detailed account of her pilgrimage in the Holy Land in the late 300’s and she specifically says that this story happened on the shore of the Galilee where there is a rock that looks like stairs. It’s really remarkable on so many levels. 1) This reiterates the idea that women are substantially important in keeping the faith and play a crucial role in the Church, regardless of our modern ideas of patriarchy and female oppression in the Church AND this has been true since the very beginning of Christianity. 2) It is impressive that this woman even knew how to write given the circumstances and that she was able to go on a pilgrimage at all. Not to mention that her work would be preserved to present–day and later be regarded as a fundamental resource in uncovering the major sites of Jesus. 3) It really illustrates the difference between men and women. Women tend to be much more detailed in their descriptions of things and focus on how things looked or felt, etc. Meanwhile, the earliest accounts of male pilgrimages are focused mostly on logistics: “It was this many miles and took this many donkeys to get there. We brought this inventory of supplies.” While this not apply to every man or woman, Evan has yet to write anything about our journey. Case in point.
|The rocks that look like steps|
While both the Church of the Multiplication and St. Peter’s Primacy were very simple in atmosphere (this church doesn\’t even have real pews, just chairs), St. Peter’s primacy was definitely cozier and warm feeling. This was probably due mostly to the beautiful stained glass and the warm-colored rock the church was built upon. This is believed to be the rock that Jesus served Peter breakfast that morning they had their little chat. It’s known as the Mensa Christi or Christ’s Table. What really made it cozy though were the birds that lived there and were constantly buzzing in and out. While we were there, two birds were perched right on the cross behind the altar. They would fly off and do something important and come back to rest. How nice it must be to so easily rest on Jesus.
The Jordan is Gross: Renewing Our Baptismal Promise in the Sea of Galilee
|The Sea of Galilee: A much cleaner option|
Since we\’ve gotten back, a surprising number of people have actually asked me if we went to the river Jordan, where Jesus was baptized. No, because the Jordan has become pretty disgusting. Due to an “ecological catastrophe” the Jordan is vanishing and is full of pollution. I guess it’s now only backlog from the Dead Sea or something. So, instead of trekking down to the Jordan, we did a mini-renewal of our baptismal vows with water from the Sea of Galilee in front of St. Peter’s Primacy Church, which very well could have the same actual water from the Jordan and was definitely water that Jesus walked on. I’m counting it.
Luminous Mystery 1: The Baptism in the River Jordan
30 Minutes….Go!: Mount of Beatitudes
|The Church of the Beatitudes|
|The Beatitudes in Stained Glass|
When you’re in the Holy Land, you have to be very aware about time. Many of the churches close for lunch (between 12-2pm generally) so on occasion you may find yourself a bit pressed for time. Unfortunately, we were in this situation on the Mount of Beatitudes. We had 30 minutes to get in and get out. It was mostly a whirlwind and I spent most of my time trying just to see everything and take some pictures that I really didn\’t get to experience it as fully as I would have liked. It was one of the more beautiful landscapes we went to while we were in Israel. You really got a sense of the lush landscape up here. The church itself was pretty, especially the gold ceiling and I liked the stained glass windows with the beatitudes written in Latin, but I didn\’t really connect with it at all on a spiritual level. 30 minutes just isn\’t enough time to really allow yourself to be in this sort of space.
|I loved the rock artwork of the bread and fish in the garden. So cool.|
I am counting this as fulfillment of the Luminous Mystery 3: The Proclamation of the Kingdom.
Jesus touched this pottery…why not?: Capernaum
|Capernaum (plus the synagogue on the left)|
In preparation for this trip, I read James Michener’s The Source. I should have also reread the Gospels. This became increasingly evident when we would go to a location and I would have no idea what it was. Capernaum was that kind of place. Maybe I just don’t know my places, but I don’t remember ever hearing about the town of Capernaum, where Jesus set up shop for a good portion of his career. This is Peter’s town.
The very first thing we saw in Capernaum was a group of Chinese tourists feeding, petting and playing with a feral cat. Apparently, Israel had a rat problem, so they got cats. Now they have a cat problem. Seriously, they are everywhere! They are like the equivalent to the American squirrel. For the record, I would not touch a feral car if I could at all avoid it.
|The foundation of the synagogue (the black layer is the original)|
Unlike Magdala, a lot of Capernaum has been excavated, so it’s pretty large and really looks like a huge urban city. This is interesting, because supposedly, this was a much more “backwater” town than say Magdala during Jesus’ time, but this one wasn’t covered by mud, so I guess there’s that. The foundations of the houses and markets seemed to extend forever and you could really sense the busyness of the town.
|This is what a millstone looks like…heavy.|
There are two main structures of note in Capernaum, the first being the synagogue. There are ruins from the 4th century synagogue that were built on top of ruins from the Roman synagogue of Jesus’ day. You can actually see the difference in the rock (the 4thcentury synagogue being built in light limestone while the earlier synagogue was built in the local basalt). This seemed much bigger than the Magdala synagogue, but maybe that is just because it had walls.
They say that a pilgrimage to the Holy Land is the 5thGospel. It really gives a context to what Jesus was saying. While some of the things may sound strange to us because we live in a different time and place, to the followers, it would have made perfect sense. This is an example of an ancient millstone. You can picture Jesus preaching about it being better to tie a millstone around your neck and throw yourself in the sea than to sin. He could have easily pointed to this millstone. Everyone there would have been able to see it and think, “Man, that millstone is heavy and would be a horribly unpleasant way to die”. If going to the Holy Land has done nothing else for me, it has definitely given me a greater appreciation for the human-ness of Jesus and his ministry.
|Looking into Peter\’s inner room from the church glass floor.|
To the right is the main attraction, Peter’s home. We are very certain this is the correct place because this site was vouched for by the people who would have known where Peter lived. Jesus stayed with Peter in the inner room, so obviously, there is a church right on top of it. What makes this church really cool though, unlike any other church on top of the other holy sites we saw, this church actually is a symbol of one of the Bible stories it honors, the story of the lame man who was lowered into the house on a cot to be healed. So, instead of incorporating the archaeological dig into the church, they built the church over it. Above it. With a glass floor in the middle of it so you can actually look down in Peter’s inner room and see the perspective of the lame man. The church itself actually looks like a spaceship suspended on stilts. I really liked the interior. It was fresh, modern, full of sunlight and colorful.
Before we left Capernaum we went on the rocky shore of the Galilee and Jessa started picking up pieces of pottery. I guess that when you live in Israel, you start becoming an expert about archaeology, because she was discarding some thin pottery that would have been newer than the old, thicker pottery. Technological advances in later years allowed pottery to be thinner than and just as strong as the previous thicker potter (like a MacBook Air compared to a room-size computer of the 80’s). We picked up some pieces of thick pottery that could have been created in the 1st century. I’m going to say that Jesus touched our piece, because why not? No one can prove otherwise.
|Interior of Church of St. Peter|
There’s No Better Place to Die than in the Holy Land: The Ascent to Mount Tabor
Our next stop was Mount Tabor, which is traditionally where the Transfiguration of Jesus occurred. I think this is an estimate. They knew it was a large mountain, and this was the largest in the area. I think that’s a fair assumption.
Guys, this mountain is intense. It’s incredibly high and steep and the road (which is impossibly considered two-directions) does continuous switchbacks all the way up. You get higher, you can’t see the sharp turns, you’re close to the edge of falling off the mountain and there may be people coming down the mountain you have to make sure you don’t hit. It was truly terrifying.
This mount is so dangerous, in fact, that they won’t let the tour buses go up it. Tour buses have to actually stop and take taxis (which are run by Israeli mafia….I’m not even kidding) to get to the top. Being in a car, and against having to pay the mafia, Rodolfo expertly drove us up the mountain. I thought of two things mainly: “There’s no better place to die than in the Holy Land” and “Man, Jesus walked up this? He had to have been ripped.” It’s really impressive.
Risking Life and Limb: Lunch on Mount Tabor
|At least the view was nice. Didn\’t take a picture of the trash, sorry.|
By the time we got there we were all more than ready for lunch. The nice thing about Mount Tabor is that because it’s one of (if not the) highest point in the area, the view is spectacular. As we were looking for a place to eat, I spotted what looked to be the most beautiful, serene grassy knoll area, with some trees to offer shade and what was sure to be an incredible view to the valleys below. It was away from the church and parking lot area, so it looked quiet and undisturbed. The only, teeny little issue was that to get there you had to take a very small pathway on the side of a cliff. We decided to go for it. Rodolfo went first to scope it out, then Evan. I was next followed by the rest of our companions. Thankfully, everyone made it across safely.
However, the beautiful, pristine grassy knoll that I had seen earlier turned out to be very different up close. Apparently, this is a very common picnic area and there was trash everywhere. It was really disgusting. Full trash bags just lying there up against the trees. Picnic refuse littering the entire area. It was difficult to find a spot that didn\’t have trash on it so that we could sit down and eat our lunch. It was very disappointing. I know that Americans might not be known for their cleanliness or consideration (we’re no Singapore after all), but I have never seen a park of a public nature area that was so full of trash. It might have to do with the fact that most of those places are protected and cared for by park rangers and government entities and maybe that’s not the case in Israel. Regardless, if this had been Austin there would have been an uproar, a petition, fines put in place by trash-leavers, etc. But, it wasn\’t so bad. Once we found a relatively small patch of trash-free grass, we did get to see the beautiful view of the Galilee as we ate our turkey pitas with apples. That was worth it. It is super beautiful down there. We also got to hear the cows (who live and climb all over the mountain apparently) serenade us with the song of their people. (Moo!)
After lunch we discovered that this serene, out of the way grassy knoll area we risked life and limb to get to was actually connected to the parking lot on the other side. Wow. We’re special.
We are Leaving RIGHT NOW!: The Church of the Transfiguration
After lunch we went to the church (surprise, surprise). Like almost every other church we\’ve seen and would see for the duration of our trip, the functioning church is just a reiteration of an old crusader or byzantine church (or both?). Around this church, everything looks pretty rocky, the archaeological site is all made of stone and the sunniness of the day really gave a desert-like feel to it (although the view was far from desert like in anyway, giving me the sneaking suspicion that this pseudo-desert feel was manufactured more than just embraced). The coolest thing about the actual church itself were the way that the chapels were set up on the inside. Obviously, the main church gave homage to Jesus, the transfigured Lord, but the two side chapels on either side of the main church were chapels devoted to his partners in crime, Moses and Elijah. The church itself tells the story.
|Chapel of Moses|
|Chapel of Elijah|
The inside mosaics were beautiful and bright. The dome with Jesus was radiating gold and even the side chapels were colorful. In the lower church area there was a beautiful stained glass peacocks and a mural depicting Jesus’s life accompanied by angels. It was pretty crowded down there (maybe they had a mass going on, I can’t remember), so we didn\’t spend as long in the lower church as I would have liked to really look at the artwork.
|The Main Church of the Transfiguration|
|The Exterior of the Church of the Transfiguration|
I have to admit that, by this time, I was getting a little restless. Being in churches one after the other constantly makes them all run together. It’s hard to truly express the beauty and art of each location because they are all magnificent in their own right. After a while it gets hard to distinguish churches as well as feel taken by the magnificence of it all because every single church has their moments of magnificence. I bowed out early of this particular church due most definitely to my own psychology rather than the lack of beauty in the church.
It was at this point that I started playing (retroactively in some cases): Rosary Bingo. I was curious how many mysteries we would get to see. I didn\’t imagine that we would virtually complete them all. I will say this, the view from Mount Tabor is absolutely glorious and will dispel any dusty Biblical desert you have been taught about.
As we were leaving, Jessa and I had to use the bathroom and while I wouldn\’t normally bring this up as a talking point, this bathroom experience stuck with us so deeply that we literally could not keep from talking about it for the rest of the trip and will probably forever change the way I think about Mount Tabor.
|The best view in all of Israel, I think|
If I could offer you only one piece of advice: Do not use the bathroom on Mount Tabor.
The bathroom is not part of the church, thankfully. I guess because people picnic up there a lot, judging by the trash on the grassy knoll (which should have been a red-flag right away that cleanliness is not really valued a whole lot in this area). The bathroom is in its own little building, like you’d find at a park, nothing fancy about it. When Jessa and I walked in, there were 3 stalls, but only one was being used. An Indian girl was in front of us in line and informed us that only the middle one was “good”. I use “good” very loosely. Let me tell you, when an Indian girl says the bathrooms are bad. They are bad. One of the stalls looked like copious amounts of mud had been tracked in on people’s feet, entering and exiting the stall. I’m very certain it wasn\’t mud. I didn\’t actually look in that stall, but Jessa informed me later that it was basically an explosion of human waste product that must have been caused by a backup in the system. That must be what I’m smelling. Neither of us were brave enough to even look in the third unacceptable stall.
So we waited for the only stall worth going in. There was no toilet seat. There was no toilet paper. There was no soap to wash your hands afterwards (and with all the excrement around, we desperately wanted to wash our hands). It would have been cleaner if I had dug a hole in the ground myself.
We came out of the bathroom colder, wiser and less innocent than before. When Rodolfo asked Jessa if she needed a shekel for the bathroom (you pay to use the toilets generally over there), she turned on him with a passion. “I am not paying one cent for that bathroom…..I\’ve seen things.”
We had no desire to stay on Mount Tabor any longer, we even joked that the car itself may have been contaminated and we would have to throw it down the mountain. Thankfully, Jessa had hand sanitizer, which we used furiously and in abundance.
It really does add a perspective to the Transfiguration story though that I can relate to and sympathize with on a very human-level. I can just picture this conversation:
Peter: *huffing and puffing from having walked up the entire mountain* “Jesus, bro, can’t we just stay here? Can’t we build some tents and just all hang out and be groovy?”
Jesus: “Did you see the bathrooms? No, we are leaving RIGHT NOW! Tell nobody what you\’ve seen here.”
|I\’m sorry that was gross. But here\’s another picture of the view to make it up to you!|
Luminous Mystery 4: The Transfiguration
Bird Sudoku: The Bird Mosaic in Caesarea
As the day began getting sleepy, we knew that we needed to leave the Galilee and go home (well, not Evan and I, our journey was just beginning, but our travel companions had flights to catch and work to do). We knew when we got there that Nathan/Amelia’s and our trip would overlap just for the Galilee and we would spend the remaining part of our vacation in and around Jerusalem, and logistically it actually worked out splendidly. Poor Jessa and Rodolfo didn’t get to rest at all for half a month!
There was still some time to make a few quick detours on our way to the airport to drop Nathan and Amelia off for their red-eye flight. First we went to Caesarea, the very Roman city in Israel. Herod built it as the administrative capital of Judaea for the Roman Empire. To me, it looks like a resort town, similar to how the resorts looked at the Dominican Republic. It definitely seemed a lot wealthier than the towns we saw in the Galilee and I just imagine some rich people vacationing there.
“Do you want to see something that I guarantee is not on any tour of Israel?” Jessa asked. She was answered with a resounding “Yes” (our mantra for the trip, really). Before we know it, Rodolfo has pulled over to the side of the road, parked the car and we were walking up a hill through a children’s park. At the top of the hill was a byzantine era floor with beautiful mosaics featuring different birds. It kind of looked like a bird Sudoku puzzle with each bird in its place, tiled next to another and every line had each bird type in it. Apparently this used to be a rich person’s mansion that had burned down and was all but forgotten, until they found it and excavated the flooring. Now it’s just sitting there, as part of a children’s playscape with a placard explaining its history, but nothing more. After seeing all the churches, it’s easy to forget sometimes that buried under Israel is also a lot of secular, everyday residences that would have used similar architectural elements as the churches. Although, the churches are all tourist attractions and this piece of artwork is all but forgotten, save for the local children and our tour guides who happened to stumble upon it in their many adventures around Israel.
|Yeah, this is just randomly in the middle of a park|
A Perfect Ending: The Aqueduct at Sunset
|Roman technology at it\’s finest|
|Sunset on the Mediterranean: Very Romantic|
Next pit stop on our whirlwind mini tour of Caesarea was of the Roman Aqueduct that stands as a constant reminder of the Roman Empire and the technology that they were so famous for. The Aqueduct is now defunct, but it still stands their strong and prominent on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea. We got there about the time the sun was setting, which gave a very serene and romantic atmosphere about the place. There was a couple actually picnicking on the beach in a most idyllic and romantic way. It was a nice breather. After having gone to all the places in the Galilee and fought our way through droves of tourists in the churches, it was very relaxing to just watch the sun set over the Mediterranean in perfect peace and silence. I can see why the couple shoes this spot to picnic. The background was a perfect ending to a perfect trip…well, not an ending for Evan and I, as we were only just beginning our vacation really, but for the rest of our companions, it was a perfect way to wrap everything up and stop to “take it all in”. For Evan and me, it served mostly as a nice romantic break signifying the end of the Galilee and the beginning of Jerusalem.
We thought we might have time to go peek into what I think was Herod’s palace while we were in Caesarea, but it was pretty dark by this point and it seemed a little sketchy to leave our car with all our luggage in an unlit parking lot, so we opted not to, but from what I saw it looked kind of like an amusement park where you paid admission and got to play around in the stones of the ancient palace.
|Herod\’s Palace from afar|
Squishy and Delicious: Dinner at the Old Man and the Sea in Jaffa
Our last stop before the airport was a restaurant in Jaffa called the Old Man and the Sea. It was definitely one of the nicer restaurants we ate at in terms of atmosphere, lots of stringed lights, a huge outdoor patio, and tons of people. This was a very happening place and I understand why. You sit down and they come out with, like 20 plates of small plates / salads of hummus, tahini, cauliflower, egg dip, a version of salsa, a version of guacamole, a bunch of stuff that I don’t know what it was made out of and a crap-ton of naan. You know when you go to a Mexican restaurant and you get chips and salsa, this is like that only about 20 times the amount. It’s so filling that you really don’t need the meat, but of course, being the gluttons that we are, we got meat anyways.
Apparently, Rodolfo was trying to rally the troops to figure out what we all wanted to order, but as soon as the starters came out, all bets were off. While Amelia may have been looking directly at Rodolfo when he was talking, all her brain was thinking was about how flipping delicious the hummus was. When we finally did get it together enough to order, we only got 3 dishes, lamb, fish and chicken kebabs. The chicken was my favorite (surprise surprise) because it was insanely moist. Jessa and Evan loved the fish. When Jessa ate part of the fish that could have been the eye or the brain or some other organ of sorts, she commented it was “squishy and delicious”. Even the organs of the fish were delectable. What more could you ask for. We all shared the food, reminisced about our trip to the Galilee and trying to pick the best small plate that was out in front of us.
It was probably this egg salad thing that had the consistency of hummus. There were two sets of everything, one for each side of the table but the way we were sitting, Rodolfo and I were basically sharing one half of the salads and the other four were fighting for the other half. So, when Rodolfo picked up the last 1/3 of the egg dish, I asked him if that was indeed the dish we was about to consume (secretly wanting some for myself). He looked me dead in the eye with no shame or guilt and said “Yep” and proceeded to scrape the remaining salad on his plate. Well, so much for wanting more of that. I turned my attention to some ranch-like sauce to dip my sauce in.
Goodbye Nathan and Amelia: To the Airport in Tel Aviv and On to Jerusalem
It was finally time. We could put it off no further. There were no more detours to be had. We were on our way to the airport to say goodbye to our new and better friends. The conversation quickly turned from fun and light stories (For example when we were cut off by a pizza delivery guy on a moped: “I see the headline now: ‘Stoned Americans attack Pizza Hut delivery guy.’”…stoned as in punishment not drug usage although we thought the play on words was entertaining because who would attack a pizza delivery guy unless they were in fact stoned.) to a more serious tone to prepare Amelia and Nathan for the Israeli airport.
Whenever you think, man American airport security is the WORST, just remember at least it’s not Israel. You HAVE to get to the airport like 2-3 hours early because of the amount of times you have to go through some security precaution. Jessa began quizzing them. “Why were you in Israel?” “We went on Christian pilgrimage.” “Did you go in any of the Palestinian territories?” “Why would we do that?” “What are your friends’ names?” “We didn\’t say we visited friends.” And on and on.
I mostly ignored the exchange. I figured we would get the same spiel when it was time for us to go to the airport and didn\’t think much about it, but the effect the conversation had on Evan was dramatic. He got very quiet (well more so than usual) and was definitely feeling uncomfortable. I could feel his anxiety about being a foreigner in another country imagining being interrogated at the airport. He couldn\’t shake it. I was really surprised about this, honestly. In our relationship, normally I am the one who suffers with copious amounts of anxiety, but this is one of the first times Evan has been in a very different land than America. Yeah, we\’ve been on a cruise and our honeymoon in the Dominican Republic and the Cayman Islands with friends, but this was different. This was an area that is known for being very strict militarily and much more unstable politically than the other locations we\’ve been to. I tried my best to console him, but he wasn\’t having any of it. He finally relaxed a little when I assured him that I would take care of airport security myself and that he had nothing to worry about. I got this.
We said our goodbyes and watched our friends disappear into the airport and we were on our way to Jerusalem, where Jessa and Rodolfo live. When we finally got there, we brought all our luggage and settled into their very cozy apartment, where we had our own comfy room which had everything we would need (a bed, space heater, an alarm clock, food/snacks, some first aid kits, the internet password information and even a scarf for me to wear in case we went to a very orthodox Jewish neighborhood). They even welcomed us with a sign on the door. Best hosts ever.
Next Up: The Old City in Jerusalem