So we are going to Israel. Some of you already known that instead of Peru and highly anticipated Machu Pichu ( the road was destroyed and it is closed till April)we are going in a completely opposite direction… and we are still celebrating my 40th B-day. Eugene is excited as well but at this point his excitement is coming from the fact that nobody will be able to page him for the next 2 weeks. We are packed into 2 tiniest suitcases; we have books about history of Israel, history of Jews and history about history, we have a new Nikon D700 camera, we have computer , we have a phone, we have everything ( at least we think we do).
We are in NY, it is always exciting to be at international terminal, names of the countries, different cities act as adrenaline (you actually can go and visit them). When you have 7 hours of layover…excitement is dying out and you start a next phase of resentment… Anyway we were flying El Al famous Israeli airline that did not have any cases of terrorist activities registered ever. We have our new passports and we do not have any previous history of our traveling any where before and our tiniest 2 suitcases put us on the list of “highly suspicious” travelers. We were questioned and questioned more and than some more by the manager of the manager and finally we are cleared to board. Many fellow passengers are orthodox Jews inthe black suits, black hats, and black shoes. Many of them had special boxes for the hats. Many traveled with well behaved kids. Coming from San Diego… it was all very exotic and intriguing. During the flight, at the break of down, a lot of them put a full attire for praying including tallit and when you are sleeping and waking up and see figures beside you praying puts youon the different planet all together.
March 16 we are in Tel-Aviv. Our dearest fiend Leva,we have not seen him for 20 years, met us at the airport. He did change and he did not change at all. I am sleepy, tired, not really knowing what I am doing and what I am saying. Have you met somebody recently that you have not seen for the longesttime… you never know how is it going to be… are you still on the same page, ishe/she is the same person, are you the same person that you were 20 years ago. At the end I think we figure out that we are all the same, with the same likes and dislikes, just little bit older, more tired and used up by life.
So the ice is broken and we all talk nonstop trying to tell our stories to each other. Leva and Sveta…. Together for 21 years, 3beautiful, well behaved kids, working non-stop, looking exhausted and both Eugene and I are pinged with guilt that we are adding more troubles for them. They organized everything for us,we dropped on them as snow in July but they were not showing it… and just kept repeating that they were so happy to do it. Dear Sveta and Leva, thank you again for all your troubles and making us so welcome.
But in front of us the whole Israel we need to get prepared to soak it all in.
March 17.For the next couple of days we are staying with Sveta and Leva. And the first trip is to Jerusalem. We never took the organized trips before we are not sure what to expect. Getting up early, getting on the bus and changing to another bus and finally we are on our way. Jerusalem is a very special city for everyone. You probably heard from me already but I will repeat it again… Jerusalem and Israel will speak to you, you will feel it “super-natural” powers if you are a believer and if you are not , you will feel it in your head, you will feel it in your hear and you will feel by the places in your body and soul that you did not even know that you have.
We are driving by different villages, little towns. In some of them Jews and Arabs are living together and there is nottension. In some of them they do not live together and there is a lot of tension. And in some of them they just fighting with each other. There are noanswers (from what I could see ) how to resolve it.
We are driving to the Jerusalem and white city is opening as in panoramic view. Houses are built on top of each other but they are built from the white or light brown stones so it looks clean instead of crowded and overpopulated. From everywhere you can see the golden dome“Dome on the Rock” a very sacred place for different religions. We were not able to get there, security is very tight.
We enter the city though the Damascus Gate is one of seven gates that let you into medieval walls of Old Jerusalem.
Anyway the first stop is the tomb of Jesus
Holy Sepulcher Church in Jerusalem is built at the site of Jesus' crucifixion and entombment. The Holy Sepulcher Church is an odd looking structure, somewhat cramped on the site of the squares. The interior of the Holy Sepulcher Church has been carved up into six sections, each held by the Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox, Syrian Orthodox, Egyptian Coptic and Ethiopian churches of Jerusalem. There are multiple tour groups,pilgrims, priests, people from all ever the world came to see it, touch it, and experience it.
I was surprise (and not really surprise) to learn that the tensions between the six groups can lead to occasional fist fights inside the church. Today there are strict demarcations between them, down to thick boundary markings painted on the floor and the pillars, as well as set times for crossing those boundaries.
There is a line to get inside ( there is always a line but if you will pay cash to 2oldest Muslim families that guards entrance to the tomb, for the last 500 years, you can get there without a line,who said that $$ can not buy everything). In our standing in line we were almost run over by little grandmas from Italy who were so eager to get inside the tomb as fast as possible that they did not think usage of the manual force is a wrong strategy (considering a place where they were planning to use it). So we are inside the tomb, there is a blue fire that appears miraculously every year Sunday after spring equinox. At the ceremony of the ignition of Holy fire only Orthodox Church officials can be present, thus Catholic Church does not believe in Holy fire. So politics are even on that level. You can get your candles burned by the holy fire and bring it home to cleanse your house. Back to the tomb… there is marble plate where Jesus was laying; there is a piece of stone that was covering his tomb. All the tension in the air and I feel almost dizzy from all that.
If you will go little bit up you will get to Church of Golgotha or Cavalry where Jesus was crucified. Also there are talks that there is another Golgotha just outside the city (I am thinking it might be just in case of a back up). So we all have been told that Cavalry was struck by lightning and cracked… if you want to see the crack, the crack is there….BTW, remains of Adam,(you know Adam and Eve) were found there as well. If you want to see the navel of earth, it is there as well. Nicely outlined by the plate, you can even touch the center of the earth… or was it the center of the universe? My head is overwhelmed by the significance of all the facts, object, tension, unrest in the air.
We are out and the next stop is the Wailing Wall or Western wall, it is the most sacred place for Jews around the world. It is actually a foundation of the Second temple (there were actually 3 temples build but the 3rd one is the same as the second, so we always say the second temple… it took me a while to understand it…). Again, tension is in the air, we are walking through the narrow crowded streets, many soldiers, just “regular” people with automatic guns. Somehow it was not making an impression at the moment of the walk; somehow I understood it after the fact when I was going through the pictures. Some body is putting the red thread around the wrist (to protect from evil), our bags are checked and we enter the plaza. I am clutching my note that I suppose to put in the wall, I am making it as small as possible so it would fit “nicely”,again there are a lot of people, everyone is putting there hopes and wishes and hoping and hoping and hoping. I am crying and than I realize that everyone around me crying as well. I did not expect that it will touch me. It was refreshing to learn that I can be touched, talking about rebirth….
After all these revelations and tiresome experiences we went to see Tomb of King David. Some gates were closed and we had to go through the Old Jaffa gates and Armenian quarters. Our fellows in the tour asked if the Armenian quarters are populated by refugees from Armenia 1990 unrest and the answer was ….NO.
When we made to King David Tomb.. Another person asked if it was all build by Zionistsand again the answer was …NO. Our guide told him that they dried the swamps.
There were couple of interesting observations… did you hear about Judgment day? Yes, so it will be right here, and Olive hill, yes, yes right here on the right. In this kind of places you really do not want to do or even think about anything bad… just in case if it is all true.
So we were done with this day. It was overwhelming. My advice to anybody is to go to Jerusalem, to rent hotel in old town and spend 2-3 days just wondering around. That what I am going to do next time when I will go there.
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© Natalie and Eugene Golts