Throwback travel post: Where is Israel?

Originally found at https://medium.com/@tag3773/where-is-israel-2ab6b9fac689

Post from Day 3 of a weeklong trip

March 2014 – Israel

 

I’m writing this blog instead of going out…priorities? I also left my money in the hotel room, aka Someone was looking out for me making sure I didn’t make bad choices. Today was a lot, but I took notes on my phone so I would remember everything!!!

Our first speaker was Jody, who is the editor in chief for the Israel bureau of NYT. She’s so funny and chill, I loved it. One thing she said that really stuck out to me was that the “face” of the Israeli conflict is the Palestininan stone thrower. It’s painful to be in the face of guns and soldiers whom you feel have wronged you, your history, your family, and all you have are stones. But you make do, taking back some of the earth that was taken from you to gain it all back. Hope and resilience, anger and love. These emotions really rule the world, no matter what your background and where you come from. Although I would never want to compare the Palestinian experience to anything because there is nothing like it and that would neglect the nuanced complexity of the situation, I see similarities between the Palestinian struggle and other movements for justice, based on narrative. It’s painfully, beautifully sad, that no matter how much time has passed in history, suffering for the same reasons occurs time after time. but we’re all humans. What would life and humanity be without some clash? I just would love to know that resolution is in sight. The beauty of struggle is knowing that it will pass, and at the end, though exhausted and drained, you gave it your all and it paid off. Of course this doesn’t always happen, but, it would be nice if it did, wouldn’t it? Jody also mentioned that if we keep looking at the past and tried to reconcile the narratives, it’s impossible, but looking towards the future and what could be will bring possibility. But what does the future hold?! We’ll never know. The mystery of life…

After the talk we headed up to the Mount of Olives! (I really hope I don’t misname any of these sites, there were so many!) Jeremy gave a moving and amazing introduction to this area. We sat on the steps, wind0blowing and he shared his own faith journey, and pointed out what all these sites in this area meant to everybody. How “interesting” that all three large monotheistic religions seem to converge here. What a city. The most poignant part (or one of them) of his introduction was when he read Psalm 122 while we looked out over Jerusalem, in all its glory, history, pain. It was the perfect psalm and just a perfect moment. Also, I am so mad that I decided to leave my Bible and my Jesus journal at home! Like what was I thinking!!! That’s how you know that I actually didn’t believe that this trip was real until we touched down. Jeremy decided to read from the New Living Translation. Normally I stick with the New King James Version, especially for psalms but this one just sounds beautiful in the NLT.

Psalm 122

I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” And now here we are, standing inside your gates. Jerusalem is a well-built city; its seamless walls cannot be breached. All the tribes of Israel — the Lord’s people—make their pilgrimage here. They come to give thanks to the name of the Lord, as the law requires of Israel. Here stand the thrones where judgment is given, the thrones of the dynasty of David. Pray for peace in Jerusalem. May all who love this city prosper. O Jerusalem, may there be peace within your walls and prosperity in your palaces. For the sake of my family and friends, I will say, “May you have peace.” For the sake of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek what is best for you, O Jerusalem.

I love Jeremy as a tour guide (I may have already said this?) because he asks the realest amazing questions. He won’t let you leave Jerusalem as just a tourist site. That cheapens it. You have to experience Jerusalem, whether in a religious way or not, but you have to see what this city really is, what it really means.

FYI, this will be a long post if you haven’t already figured that out. I wouldn’t feel right summing this place up.

So the psalm says all the tribes of Israel make their pilgrimage here. So what is a pilgrim? Are we pilgrims? Do pilgrims have to be religious? Jeremy said no, a pilgrim is someboyd who is “engaging, discovering”, so we are pilgrims. To be a pilgrim in the land of pilgrimages, to know that millions of feet have trodden this ground all looking for the same thing, I’ll never get over how rich human history, biblical history is. Other questions he asked were “What is your Jerusalem?” and “What is Israel?” Is Israel a tribe, a land, a people? For me, Israel is the kingdom of God, scattered all around the globe, living, loving, growing, challenging each other. I have found Israel in country towns of Peñaflor, Chile as we jumped and shouted to the Lord in a small pentecostal church in the campaña. I have found Israel in friendly smiles of fellow exchange students at Science Po in Bordeaux, France last semester, the light of the Lord radiating through her cheekbones and bright eyes. I have seen Israel grow from skepticism, I have seen it recede in the face of doubt, but Israel is strong, relentless, strengthened by the armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-19).

In his introduction (can you believe I am still on this?! maybe I’ll split it up into multiple posts), he mentioned how when he was younger, the Bible belonged to the religious kids, not him. But when he came here, he took it back. Although I went to church throughout elementary school, in middle school it tapered off (for various reasons), and in high school, my mother and I went sporadically. As much as I loved the worship (I went to a pentecostal church and they know how to get down! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nhx8FHYBs7k — a classic for those who are interested), the Word never quite resonated with me. I detached myself from it because I knew who the other Christians were at school and they frustrated me and it just seemed like something that wasn’t worth it. But by the end of my senior year of high school, I knew something was really missing. And it was God. (another classic I just found! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qRU1y8LtXI8 . I am also including the album version, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iv68ruS6DVE, which has like 23423423 revivals. Classic in a pentecostal church, the worship never ends). Visitas, I met a leader of a Christian fellowship and I followed up with her freshmen year, and I was sold. Ok, there is a bit more to it, but feel free to ask me if you ever have the chance. It was never easy, I’m not perfect, and I’ve had my fair share of setbacks, and I am nowhere near to where I want to be, but I could never go back to my life denying my God. It would just feel so empty to me.

This was the perfect time in my faith walk to come to Israel. I wanted to come before I got married, when my faith was mine and mine alone, and I was worried about nobody but myself. I’m also at a point where I feel comfortable with knowing the Word, the stories, the message, how it applies to my life, what it really means, how it’s changed my life, etc. I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek (Romans 1:16). I know what it has done for me and to be able to walk on the ground and see and be where all of it happened is incredible.

More to come in the next post!

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