side trip: the galilee and tel aviv.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Jerusalem, such a historical and amazing city has so much to offer - but I have to say that our side trip out to see the Galilee and Tel Aviv was just as amazing if not more.

Right now we are settled into our new home at the world-famous Austrian Hospice, on the Via Dolorosa in the old city of Jerusalem. Thank you Heather, for booking for our stay 12 months in advance so we can enjoy our last stretch of adventures in Jerusalem in such an amazing place!

Monday we set out bright and early for the Galilee with our tour guide, Vincent, where we would get to explore the area where Jesus did the majority of his ministry. How amazing is it to walk where he walked, see the countryside as he did, and see the bible come to life. We made our way around the sea of Galilee, even going up to the Mt. of Beatitudes and around the beautiful fields, ending with a boat trip out on the actual sea where we read the story of Jesus calming the sea and enjoyed a glorious day.

enjoying sack lunches on the shores of the sea of Galilee!

Hanging out in the town of Jesus

“And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are." 

Reading the story of how Jesus calmed the storm on the sea of Galilee!

Stones on the Mount of Beautitudes

While in the Galilee area we also go the opportunity to speak with Elias Chacour, a renowned author and peace activist who is from the area and has an amazing story. He has inspired me so much, and I cannot believe we got the opportunity to actually speak with him and hear him in action. I could go into so much detail about him and his work here, but I would encourage you to read his biography here, or go out and read his books, Blood Brothers and We Belong to the Land, both of which focus on the issue of Palestinians here and what they face. Although he is a Palestinian himself, he calls himself a Palestinian-Arab-Christian-Israeli, and probably is one of the best voices I've heard advocating for peace here. What a true inspiration! 

Father Chacour signing books after our group lecture

The next day we set out to spend the afternoon in Tel Aviv, where our team jumped with joy when we saw the beautiful, blue, ocean and heard we were going to have a free afternoon to do as well pleased - which meant for many of us, jumping into the ocean which we have missed for the last 4 months!

The glorious Mediterranean sea on a wonderful Tuesday afternoon

A little taste of Santa Barbara...on the other side of the world...

We sat on the beach, ate ice cream while watching the sunset, and then took a nice long drive back to Jerusalem. It was the first time in a long time I felt truly content. I remember watching the sun disappear while I sat on the bus, gazing out my window and thinking this is one of the last few sunsets I'll see here. I am going to be home so incredibly soon...and I'm feeling a mix of excitement, fear, anticipation and anxiousness. I'm not really sure what to expect when I arrive back home in California... 

However, our time in Tel Aviv was a well-needed afternoon full of rest and relaxation, as well as soaking up the most secular area of Israel, a stark contrast to the religious community we encounter everyday here in the old city. Speaking of which, the old city is AMAZING. Cobblestone streets, store vendors everywhere, the atmosphere of traveling back in time and getting to experience Jerusalem in all of it's former glory. What an amazing way to spend our last chunk of time together!

And it is the last chunk of time.

Our stay at the Austrian Hospice is 10 days long, and after that we have 3 days back in the Bethlehem area before we wrap up this amazing semester and board our respective flights back to our homes. Can this semester be done already? Is that even possible? Actually, yes. The final essays and final political debate hanging over my head tell me yes Leah, yes - the end is approaching fast.

The view from the rooftop of the Austrian Hospice - Dome of the Rock on the left

I've been putting off thinking about home for a while.

Every time it pops into my head I shove it away, stick it on the back burner and forget about it for a while, telling myself to not worry about it, for it'll come in time and I have enough to soak up and process here and now. But last time I finally let myself embrace the idea of going home. I let it wrap itself up over my head, enfold my entire mind in thoughts of my mom and dad, my old bed, walking barefoot over the carpet in my living room, thoughts of driving my car around Dinuba, hot and sticky valley summers and the upcoming months at camp. I let myself drown in the idea of leaving this place that is constantly changing and going home to one that has stayed the same through it all.

Home is coming fast.

The countdown rests at 13 days and I can't do anything but let myself go through the next 13 days with a joyful attitude and enthusiastic mind, knowing the end is approaching but that the end does not mean I am saying goodbye to "this" forever. 

Ends are just a means to new beginning. 

And there are so many new beginnings to discover when I arrive back home.
There are so many opportunities waiting, and I will embrace them with open arms.

California, I will see you in two weeks.

Respectfully submitted,