"This world of ours with lush offerings abound.
Where astounding ways to soothe the soul can be found.
What a wonder to behold!
On it's beauty I am sold.
Caught up in this lure, I let my spirit soar.
As my heart beats for more
Thoughts of love and sweet music fill my mind.
With eyes wide open, I jump for joy
Grateful that we live in a world where blessings flow."
Marvelous World - psw
"Where next?" The travel genie asked and I responded. There I was landing in Ben Guenon Airport, Israel with sixty-nine travel companions from two church parishes in Nassau County, USA, ready to start a spiritual journey to the Holy Land.
We began our exploration of this tiny nation and experienced Israel's diverse religious heritage, visiting sites steeped in Judaism, Christianity and Islam. I must ask you to bear with me as I trace our voyage through multicultural traditions and the ruins of ancient civilizations. The tales are too detailed to recount here but you will get a taste that is enough to push your curiosity button to make you want to take a visit or do more research on the places and incidents mentioned.
We began our tour from the town of Netayana where we stayed overnight. A walk to the shores of the Mediterranean sea brought out a WOW from my lips, a majestical view indeed. Our venture took us to Caesarea, an ancient landscape, where if you listen carefully, you can hear the victorious shouts of the gladiators. Along the way we stopped in the Roman amphitheater to watch a film on the Roman period. It showed the heyday, when the gladiator games and chariot racing were held.
Off to Tiberius we went, where we cruise on the Sea of Galilee and Capernaum. This is the place believed to be the site of Jesus' sermon on the mount. Our visit to Tabgha, believed to be the site of the miracles of the loaves and fishes,one of my favorite scripture story. The mount of the beatitudes where Jesus preached the famous sermon and chose the twelve apostles was one of our stop. At Cana, the site of Jesus first miracle of turning water into wine. Here Twenty-two couples from our group renewed their vows. At Mt. Tabor, we visited the traditional site of the transfiguration. We made our way to Nazareth the boyhood home of Jesus and visited the Church of Annunciation.
Our tour continued to the archaeological ruins of Megiddo, which is labeled a UNESCO world heritage site. Our tour spoke about the Druze culture, which was new to me and pointed out women on the street who by their dressing could be identified as a Druze. He described them as people who preferred living in the mountains. The many wonders and sites continued and we headed to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Jerusalem. We visited the western wall and asked for blessings for many by poking our pieces of paper with their names in any space available on the wall.
The Dead Sea is described as the deepest hyper saline lake in the world and is fed by the River Jordan, which flows from the Sea of Galilee. Many of our travelers came prepared with their swimsuits and floated on their back in the Dead Sea. I had already experienced this phenomenon on a previous visit and this time only placed my feet in to enjoy the mud slide.
What is a pilgrimage without shopping for the religious artifacts, crosses, rosaries, images of Mary, mother of Jesus, Jesus himself; you name it, numerous biblical figures lined the shelves of the local market, made out of authentic olive wood, they touted.
I ate a lot of crisp falafel and as a vegetarian, the cuisine was enticing. Thanks to the guides whose regional expertise shone in their commentary. This journey is indeed memorable, Israel's captivating and unique culture, bargaining with the street vendors, strolling the cobbled alleyways, descending below sea level, renewing our baptism at the River Jordan, strolling into the Palestinian section, lingering in Jericho, celebrating masses in these significant churches, a delight even from the sighting of the sycamore trees, walking in beautiful gardens with varied plants and age old olive trees,plus all the other things we participated in gave me a deep insight into this region.
What a privilege to have been immersed in the enactment of biblical passages.
Chop, chop! Sholom! Yalla! are words that keep ringing in my ears, learned from the pleasant yelling of our tour guides. I will be ready to say "yalla"(let's go) to experience another region in this marvelous world of ours.