ISRAEL the Holy Land

After arriving to the country of Israel at 4:30 a.m. Carly, Suz and I went back to sleep until 11:30 a.m.
Michael then woke us up and told us we were going to his beach house for a cookout.

About a month before Suz and I were in Chiang Mai, Thailand. It was our last day and we still hadn’t jumped on the back of any elephants, and that was one thing we really wanted to do. So we booked an elephant riding tour. When our van pulled in to pick us up it was packed with six big guys that were being really loud. Suz and I looked at each other and said, “Omg we have to spend all day with them, and we are the only girls”, then slowly walked towards the van and got in. That day ended up being one of the best days of the whole trip. All six of the guys were Israeli and on holiday in Thailand. It just so happens that we were planning on going to Israel and at the end of the tour Michael invited us to stay at his home in Israel which is where we were now. (You can call it coincidence but I know God set it up this way 😉 )

In Thailand with the guys about to white water raft

So our first day in Israel was spent at Michaels awesome beach house with his whole family. The food was SO good; homemade hummus, falafels, salads, awesome steaks for meat-eaters, they had everything. It was an awesome welcome into their country.

The next few days we couldn’t do much because we ended up arriving during their holiday of Rosh Hashanah, which is their new year. Friday though was a special day. It was Shabbat, the jewish sabbath, and we were invited to join Michael’s family for Shabat dinner! His mom made an amazing meal and it was really cool to be apart of a day that is so important to the jewish faith. Christina also ended up arriving in Israel on Friday! She is our friend from germany, who attended one of our couchsurfing parties on Oahu. I was so happy to now have Suz, Car, and Christina with me! All my travel girls! The rest of the time we spent walking around Old Jaffa and eating really good Hummus.

Saturday we ended up spending the day around Michaels house, but we weren’t complaining his house was mansion size, with a pool and decked out in the latest of everything, including the bombest cappuccino machine I’ve ever used. We also got to see all the guys that we met in Thailand which was a lot of laughing.

On Sunday (the beginning of their work week) the holiday was over and everyone was back to normal life. Michael felt that it was very important that he take us to Yad Vashem- the holocaust museum. It is important for Jews to make sure that the holocaust is never forgotten. Soon everyone that was in the holocaust won’t be here anymore and they don’t want the holocaust to be a myth, or story passed around, they want people to know that it was real and painful. So we spent the day walking around the museum and I will be honest the whole time I was sick to my stomach. There were some stations at the museum that I almost couldn’t bare looking at because of how terrible the jews were treated. I felt sickened to be apart of the human race who showed no compassion or love for its brothers and sisters. It just astounds me that one day someone decided to kill off a whole race of people, who had no crime besides being who they were from birth. The museum was a hard place to be but I learned a lot about the holocaust that I hadn’t known before.

We ended up deciding to stay in Jerusalem for a few days and found a hostel. It was the best hostel I have ever stayed at (It’s name is Abraham Hostel if anyone is ever thinking of traveling to Israel). Carly, Christina and I decided we didn’t want to waste any time and booked an adventure for the following day. Suzanne had already been to Israel and didn’t need to repeat any of the site seeing so she planned out another agenda.

The next day we woke up and went to Masada. This is where King Herod built his palace in the desert, then all of his people, and the man himself killed each other instead of being taken over and turned into slaves. It was a crazy place, I had never seen anything like it, I had never seen a desert in general, so this was extreme. After Masada we went to the dead sea and floated around for about at hour. The dead sea was AMAZING! You hear stories about it, but there is nothing like testing it out for yourself! It was so fun, we had races, put mud all over our bodies, and I was tortured with the burning water by my new Brazilian friend Marcus. It was really fun. After the dead sea we hiked to a waterfall! It was beautiful, we all played in the falls and Marcus made coffee and passed out cookies. There is nothing like hot coffee in the hot desert! haha. The best part of the day however was going to the Negev Desert to ride camels!! We mounted our camels and took a ride through the desert on the same ground that biblical figures of the past rode on. It was one of the most beautiful things I’ve EVER seen. The Sun was setting, the rollin hills of sand were glistening, and my camel was blowing me kisses, it was perfect. I made sure to savor the moment, and tried my best to slow down time because I was so happy to be there. Riding a camel was on my bucket list, but riding a camel, on biblical grounds through the negev desert, at sunset just about blew my list out of the water. After the camel rides we ate a traditional bedouin dinner! As all Israeli food is, it to was amazing.
Here is a short video of our Desert Adventure Day: 

The next day we had another packed day. We decided to go on a tour to Bethlehem. At this point I was kind of sick of tours, this was our second one in two days. Desert Adventure was more of a bunch of friends hanging out so that was ok, but ususally I am not a fan of tours. I feel like they take the adventure out of things and I like to experience the real deal. But we didn’t have much time in Israel, and we had heard stories of Bethlehem being dangerous because it was Palestinian territory, so being 3 girls we just booked a tour.

Sadly, I wasn’t impressed with the tour. We went to the church of Nativity where Jesus was born and of course it’s cool to be there. I saw the original door that Mary and Joseph walked through, and the spot where Jesus was born. However, the place was totally directed at tourist and just wasn’t the authentic experience. After we went to the Milk Grotto, which has a traditional story behind it. Supposably, it was a place families took refuge when King Herod ordered all of the babies to be killed. While Mary was nursing Jesus some of her milk spilled onto the floor and turned the place white. I’m not going to lie, I thought it was a weird story. After the milk grotto we went to the Shepherds field where the shepherds saw the star of Nativity and followed it towards Jesus. We also got to walk through the caves they lived in.

Then the tour was over and we hopped back on the bus. I asked the bus driver if he could take us to see the famous graffiti of the Bethlehem walls. He said ok, but I think he misunderstood me and ended up driving out of Bethlehem and stopped at the walls outside when we were back in Jerusalem. I was so disappointed! One of the main reasons I wanted to go to Bethlehem was to see the enormous walls that were put up to keep the Palestinians from going into Jerusalem and the Israelis from going into Bethlehem. For years Palestinians and Israelis killed each other making this area a very dangerous place to be. The governments solution was to put a big wall up to block them from each other, and the killings stopped, but now it’s a freedom issue. The Palestinians are trapped inside of their walls and are not allowed to enter “Israel” unless they have a special permit, which is very hard to obtain. Seeing this part of Bethlehem was very important to me. So I thought quickly and made a decision that I was jumping ship, or bus. I announced to the bus that I was going to walk back into Bethlehem and did anyone want to join me? Christina said she was along for the adventure, Carly was tired so she didn’t come, and I got one other guy from the states who was traveling with his mom to come with me. Everyone else on the bus just started at me. So I shrugged my shoulders and we were off.

Walking into Bethlehem was crazy. You had to go through this maze of bars, metal detectors, and stations, but they were all deserted. I couldn’t help but think about the history these bar mazes had seen, when times were very violent and they had a need for them. As soon as we entered the territory we were bombarded with taxi drivers who wanted to take us around. We were all persistent of walking around ourselves though to find the graffiti. I was mainly after the works of Banksy, a famous British street artist whose known for doing outrageous things such as putting up a modern version of the Mona Lisa in the Louvre! As we were walking though we came upon some amazing pieces. There was a common theme in all of them: FREEDOM. Along all of the walls were messages of freedom, love, equality, peace, injustice, and references to the berlin wall. It was a very emotional wall. Just by seeing the pictures and reading the words you could really feel the pain of the people. Walking I was thinking about how crazy it would be to be caged up like this, how mad I would be, especially because I’m such an advocate of freedom. But I also know that there is a bigger picture with lots of  killing, and innocent lives being taken so I really have no idea how else to fix the situation. So as we were walking looking at all of the artwork, and trying to find Banksy’s pieces we came to a dead end. A lady came out to talk to us and started asking us who we were, and where we were from. I was a little hesitant because I was already on edge being in Bethlehem by myself, because I had heard to be very careful there. She ended up telling us she was a woman’s rights activist in Bethlehem and sold items that the women of Palestine made and invited us into her shop. We agreed to have a look. Once we were inside she started telling us her story. She used to be a very wealthy woman with a successful business. She has a husband and kids and they were thriving in Bethlehem. Then when the walls went up they were put right in front of their business and it all went downhill from there. People stopped coming into her shop, and the government used her house whenever they wanted to. She explained her house was in a good location to see over the wall and shoot. On several occasions in the middle of the night soldiers burst into her house unannounced, went into her children’s rooms, pointed guns at their heads to get out of the room and occupied it to shoot out the windows. She said one time her son was so scared his eyes rolled to the back of his head and he couldn’t move. She was almost crying at this point. She told me story after story of families who have now gone into poverty because of the wall. The worst part is that when the wall was put up families were separated. Her in-laws are on the other side of the wall and they are never able to get a permit to go see them even at Christmas time (they are Christian). She said she’s taken her story everywhere. She’s written newspapers, news channels, she even flew to Hawai’i to tell her story about the women and families in Palestine. She also told me that she would be appearing on 60 minutes describing the situation in Palestine-Bethlehem. She was a very sweet woman. We stayed and talked with her for about 2 hours. At the end of our discussion I prayed for her, and her family. I know there are two sides to every story. I love my Israeli friends and and this woman I met in Palestine was very nice, and I can see how this wall has really effected her life. I also know that there is a bigger picture, with a country at war. My personal opinion is that Israel belongs to the Israelis. As for palestine when it comes down to it, I think that there were a few people that messed it up for a whole group of people. You can never judge a whole race by itself because every life has an individual story.

We spent the rest of the time in Bethlehem looking for Banksy pieces that we ended up finding! I did notice one thing while I was in Palestine, there were no women around! But there were men everywhere. And they all yelled out at me and Christina in their cars, on the streets and were not shy to stare. We were completely covered up to. I finally spotted a woman walking with her kids and smiled at her, in return her son spit at me! I was in shock. I had never been spit on before! I didn’t understand why, but I ended up coming to the conclusion that it was probably because they were Muslim, and I obviously wasn’t. So we picked a restaurant to eat at then left Bethlehem with a whole new cultural experience.

 Banksy Pieces

The rest of my days in Jerusalem were spent wandering the streets of the old city, seeing the place where Jesus was hung on the cross, observing all of the cultures of the old city clashing together, the muslims, jews, and christians. It was really quite a site. There would be a Muslim call to prayer, then you would see the jews praying fervently at the Western Wall, then the Christians walking the Via Dolorosa or stations of the cross. You can’t help but love Jerusalem for all of it’s rich culture and spiritual atmosphere. One of my favorite places that I saw there was the Dome of the Rock located on the Temple Mount. It is occupied by the Muslims and is their most holy place. It is where the profit Muhammad ascended into heave and they believe that when the messiah comes he will build a bridge from the mount of olives over to the dome of the rock and it will be the entrance into heaven. For Christians it is the site where Abraham almost sacrificed his son Isaac in Genesis 22. God had asked Abraham to sacrifice his only son, and he was about to but God stopped him before he could. God was just testing Abraham to see if he would really make this sacrifice for God and really give his all. He then blessed Abraham and in Genesis 22:14 Abraham declared the mountain Yahweh Yireh or modernly known as Jehovah Jireh. This can be translated into “the Lord will provide” or “the Lord will see to it.” This is where the name of my Jewelry Yireh comes from. God gave me this verse over a year ago. He asked me if I would give my all for his hame and told me in return he would bless me. So I named my jewelry after this because it is one way I provide for my missions. It also has huge significance with this whole trip. God asked me to sell everything I owned and just go, in faith that he would provide for me. I remembered Genesis 22:14 and was obedient. Now here I was in Jerusalem, staring at the place where the whole thing occurred. When God originally gave me this verse I had no idea I would be coming here, I actually had no idea where the mountain was located! And now here I was, the last few days of my trip and I was staring at the place that started it all for me. And guess waht? God totally provided the whole way. He did see to it.

So not only is the Dome of the Rock sacred to Muslims and Christians, it is also holy for Jews. It is actually their holiest place on Earth. They believe the foundation stone and it’s surroundings is the Holy of Holies. Just as Muslims pray towards Mecca, Jews pray towards this rock. Since it is occupied by the Muslims, the Jews are not allowed to enter into their holiest spot and instead pray at the Western Wall, also sometimes called the Wailing Wall. It is the closest they can get to their foundation stone, and Holy of Holies. Let me tell you, the Western Wall is a powerful place to be. Men and Women pray separately and must be covered up. They often write little notes or prayers to God and stick it into the crevices of the wall. You can actually e-mail a prayer from anywhere in the world to people that work at the Wall and they will kindly insert it into a crevice for you. When I went up there to put my note in I stopped for a second to take some pictures and take in the moment. I had a little red head girl getting squished from pushing below me, but she kept her eyes closed and was pressed to the wall, shaking back and forth, praying in Hebrew, a lady beside me was crying and trying very hard to touch the wall and shouting Hebrew phrases, another lady to my right was shaking uncontrollably with her eyes closed praying out loud, down a ways from me I saw a women with their hands raised outstretched towards the wall, as far as I could see there were women yelling out prayers with more emotion than I had ever heard, arms outstretched to God. It truly is a powerful spot. I sat their silently and said my own prayer than backed up (which was a tedious task) to let someone else get a chance to touch the wall.

I had one more day in Jerusalem where I went to the Mount of Olives and saw the place where Jesus taught the disciples the Lords Prayer. Also the garden of Gethsemane where Jesus went to pray. He said his prayer of agony here asking God to take this cup from him, and he was also betrayed there. This was another emotional spot, where I was hit with the reality again of how unworthy I am to have had him die for me.

I just so happened to be in Israel during their holiday season and was again able to join in the day of Yom Kippur or in english the day of atonement. Jews fast for a day and ask for forgiveness of their sins from their family, friends and God. NOTHING is open, and I mean nothing so if you aren’t Jewish you better have bought food the day before. Radio stations and T.V. channels aren’t even on air. There are also NO cars on the rode. Kids ride bikes through the streets all day and night and people even walk down the highway. Christina and I enjoyed spent the day at the beach and enjoyed taking a walk into Old Jaffa. It was really fun to be their during this time!

My last day in Israel was again spent at Michael’s house, where I started! It was about to be another holiday, and I helped them set up their Sukkah for Sukkot where they remember when Moses received the Ten Commandments from God. A Sukkah is a hut like house outside where you are supposed to eat all of your meals and sleep. It was fun!

I was so sad to say goodbye to this country and the end of my world adventure. I didn’t fall in love with all of the countries I visited on this trip like I thought I would. Indonesia is still where my heart is, I did love Australia, but I have this new longing for Israel. I truly loved every day in that country. There are so many cultures, so much diversity, so much history. You find people from all walks of life, and there is just this atmosphere there that engulfs you. I can’t really explain it, but it seems as if I was meant to end my trip there. It had so much symbolism and confirmation with words God had given me in the past. I know I will be going back. I can say that in faith.

The flight home was LONG. It was a total of 5 planes and 32 hours of travel time. I had a 5 hour layover in Germany and a 17 hour layover in New York. When I got to New York I wanted to go out of the airport and into Time Square because I had a lot of time. People at the airport advised me not to especially if I didn’t know the Subway system. I was immediately reminded of the lady that told us not to leave the airport in Athens, and how that turned out when we did. Of course I went into Time Square anyway. I figured out the Subway and walked around until midnight. It was SO AMAZING! I got a Salted Caramel from Starbucks, parked it in Time Square and people watched for awhile. I journaled, prayed and just sat their enjoying the moment. It’s really fun to be by yourself in a city you really don’t know. The best part was seeing all the people that were SO HAPPY to be there. It brought me a lot of joy to watch families speaking other languages, smiling, laughing, taking pictures and just enjoying their holiday and dream of coming to New York. It reminded me of myself on my travels the past 3 1/2 months. It was a happy moment.

I returned to the airport and found a cozy looking place on the hard cold tile of the JFK airport, rolled out my sleeping bag and went to sleep for about 4 hours. When I woke up I changed terminals, got on my plane to Tennessee (with a quick stopover in Atlanta), landed, and literally ran into the arms of my mom. I will be in Tennessee now until January where I will then return to my home, Oahu, Hawai’i.

What an adventure filled 3 1/2 months with stories, memories, blessings, people and lessons that are forever with me now. I am so so so SO happy that I chose to take a risk, step out in faith and GO. Best decision I’ve ever made.

ALOHA

P.S. Israel has THE BEST frozen yogurt.

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8 responses

  1. Wow Emily. I just scan read (short on time – will have to revisit) this beautiful article about your adventures in Israel and I cried! Between you, me and the doorpost I love Israel myself and would love to live there. And I too mourn for the suffering – on both sides. All we can do is have faith that things will come right eventually – and be open to serve in any way that comes to us to help the process!

    • Aw Rivka I’m sorry I made you cry, but I guess it truly shows the love you have for the country of Israel! Isn’t it an amazing place. My heart just goes out to everyone living there. It’s mandatory for the Israeli’s to serve in their military, but they all seem to do it so proudly. They really love their country. The situation in Palestine is so sad, and it’s not fair for innocent people who don’t have a dangerous bone in their body being caged up. All we can do as you said is help in any way that comes to us in the process. Very wise words, I’ll be looking for those laws of attraction =]

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