Throwback travel post: Sighting the site that has been cited extensively

Processing, info dumping on the first day in Israel. Medium says 7 min read.


March 2014 – Jerusalem, Israel


Ok, so I finally figured out how to post on this thing. #techstruggles #missingfastwifi I really just want to give a stream of consciousness about (almost) everything, but I should first introduce myself. My name is Tiffany, Class of 2015, and I am currently in Israel for spring break with the Harvard College Israel Trek 2014.

Everything about this trip is thrilling me at this moment. This is a part of the world that I have not seen yet and I am finding out I have extended relationships with people on this trip and basically everybody knows everybody from something. I love that about Harvard. It’s big enough that trips like these always give you new faces, but a common friend or something that you can bond over. One of the girls who I am rooming with is a freshman to whom I gave a tour during the cancelled Visitas (visiting weekend) of last year. Social clubs also bring a lot of people together and I am getting the chance to hang out with some people in my freshmen entryway who I never got to know fully. And some people are just completely random to me, but everyone has been fun nonetheless! I look forward to getting to know everyone =D

It still hasn’t quite hit me that I am here in the land of my Lord! Although I expect that there won’t be the same feel as I expect/want, I am jumping up and down to visit historical Christian sites! Which means I need to do some research to find out to which stories they correlate in the Bible. I know that Capernaum is where Jesus walked on water!

After a two-hour (approximately) delay on the airplane in Philadelphia, we were off! The delay meant that we missed sheepherding. Eddie and I were quite sad. In the end, I think it worked out though because we might have been really tired at the end and not able to hang out in the hallway after dinner like we did. The plane ride was chill. As much as I hate airports and small seats on an airplane, there is something fascinating about leaving, being in the air, without any real sense of direction, and then landing in some place on the OTHER SIDE OF THE WORLD!

One of the first things we did was eat. We stopped at this park…whose name I forget….but it is a “biblical” park used for education. Every species mentioned in the Bible is grown there! I feel like I saw a tree that looks like it might have been the same type of plant as the burning bush that Moses spoke to (or at least how I imagine the bush)We had a snack of hummus (which I pronounce correctly now!), pita, vegetables, fruit, cheese, and this other white material thing with a thick consistency. I think it was a yogurt. Malta put everything in a pita and ate it. He liked it, but it looked questionable to me. Then we played the “Huggie Bear” game, which I call the Atom game, which basically breaks physical tension between people by making them hug random people in their group!

Driving through the countryside was lovely. I appreciate countryside scenery more than actual city sights. The rocks juxtaposed with the greenery give this impression of a love and warmth dotted and shaped by pain and sharp turns. I just imagine some of the old buildings with their white, but dated stone, as the homes of families who housed the disciples, as the same structure that built the Wall of Jericho. And to think, that this was the same path that King David rode/walked on, that Jesus walked on….incredible.

When we arrived to Jerusalem proper, we all jumped out and started taking pictures grabbing the last bits of sunshine to capture in our forever photos. We took an Oscar selfie courtesy of Zach who has long arms. What was really moving though was when Jeremy, our tour guide called us in to preface Jerusalem and really this entire trip. He said, we are looking at a sight/site/cite. This can mean a “sight” as in a spectacular unique view, a “site” like a tourist site, or a “cite” as in something that has been cited multiple times by various people. As he also mentioned, we are extremely fortunate to be here when so many other people do not have the opportunity or ability to make this journey. I honestly never thought I would be here. Israel is a place with so much history, pain, love, and future that you need to share it all with a group. I am fortunate to have people whom I know I can talk to and people whose ideas I am looking forward to getting to know. To me, Israel is a “sight”, an experience. I am glad to have come here now in Israel’s history and I hope to visit this area later again when there is peace. After he gave us a tiny speech, Norman said a prayer for us, for safe travels, and a great time. Then! We broke bread and wine like King Melchesidek did to welcome King David when he arrived in Salem (Jerusalem). I never realized how that parellels what Jesus did at the Last Supper to welcome his disciples into the Kingdom by having them take part of his “body and blood” which represent the Kingdom of God, and is also how communion is performed. It was a beautiful poignant moment. All of us gathered from different walks of life, faiths, backgrounds, futures, here in this one moment, together, sharing in a ritual that is so precious to so many people. I don’t think we realize how awe-inspiring, uniting, and beautiful that moment was. This moment sticks out to me particularly because I am taking an anthropology on Food, Culture, and Society. We have an assignment to analyze our spring break food choices, aka I will have plenty to talk about! But commensality is a core concept. Commensality is the act of eating together with somebody. How it’s done, with what food, with whom, and when, speak volumes about the social relations with people and I pray that this act of breaking bread and sharing wine is a preface for an amazing week.

Now that would be an amazing place to end butttt the night went on!!! We went back to the hotel, I submitted my midterms (and I still have more to write =PPP), and then we prepped to go to Zaki’s house for Shabbat!!!! How his house managed to fit 60 people and how his parents came together to feed everyone but….it was fabulous. Shabbat is a family meal, a home meal traditionally, so the organizers thought it would be best if done correctly, in a home. They sang the blessing song and his mom did the Kiddush, the blessing over the wine. The food was fantastic. I took a photo of the menu, but I loved it because I got to try foods I normally never would have. Would anyone believe me if I said today was my first day trying hummus? Cray, I know. There were multiple types of wine. I love wine-tasting. I am working on defining my palette so I actually know what tastes are in wines and am not just guessing. Malta sounds like he knows what he’s talking about. But the rest of us are dubious. We just say what sounds good and whether we actually like it or not. But nonetheless, Zaki’s dad gave us introductions to each wine and they are just super cool! I should have written down the names. I know I really liked the Shor wine. Then there was a white wine…whose name I forget =P, but it was made by a community of mentally handicapped and non mentally handicapped people who just decided to make a wine. Knowing the backstory to foods make them taste even better. It brings the blood, sweat, and tears to the surface and allows them to linger on your tongue as you imagine the conversations they had while harvesting the grapes, the laughs, and screams, the vision they had. It’s even crazier that they have no idea the story of the people who are drinking their wine. Goodness, everybody in the world is connected by something and they don’t even know it. Then there was a wine called Volcanik, which was made….somewhere where there was volcanic soil and apparently volcanic spices in the wine (debatable….lol). And another wine that was made in the Negev desert.

So much food!!!!! And so much wine! But it was great. They also had this beer that was really good too, and I am normally not a fan of beer. I just keep shaking my head at how fantastic it was. I could go into more detail but I’ll save that for the fieldnotes I’m writing for my anthropology assignment. At the end, we made Zaki give a speech, then Nuseir, then Awais went up and had us all sing a song as a way to “give back”. But nothing could really repay them for the hospitality and care that was shown. Just lovely. Then we came back to the hotel and acted a bit of a fool in the hallway because we could. But nobody got hurt….at least not seriously lol. Alas, I must wake up soon and so I bid you farewell.

I’ll be here tomorrow!

I wanted to start this blog before we came on this trip, so I could talk about my background relationship to Israel, but I guess I’ll save that for tomorrow’s post? =D


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