As I write, I am looking through two floor-to-ceiling, arched windows at the Old City. It’s stunning. The Old City is close enough that it fills the windows, literally separated from the hillside where the hotel is located by only a small valley. While lying in bed, I can see the Armenian and Christian quarters as well as the Zion and Jaffa gates. I can also see the Mt. of Olives. A few minutes ago, I heard bells from the Christian churches mixed with prayers from the Muslim mosques.
I’m not sure how much time you’ve spent in your life studying the Bible, but my four years of Bible study in the seminary from which I graduated (a fact that still suprises me given how totally non-religious I am today) are serving me now. Many of the place names and characters are familiar. I am by no means feeling like a scholarly expert; however, when I overheard the tour guides talking in the lobby this morning to groups of gawkers, I was familiar with most of the tales. It was like hearing campfire stories from childhood again as an adult–you can’t remember exactly how to tell them, but when you hear it, you know the ending.
It’s been raining off and on, which makes it much easier to stay inside and write. I am drinking lots of tea and staying cozy to recover from the long, long journey (Israel is 12 hours ahead of Maui, or about halfway around the world…jet lag is putting it mildly).
WAIT..as I write, it’s SNOWING! Snow is just about the last thing I was expecting to see here (perhaps Jesus was the last, but then there was this guy at the airport in the ground transportation area holding up a sign that read “JESUS” in big caps followed by teeny tiny text underneath spelling “Puente”, so anything goes I guess).
Talking with some locals, I now understand that it snows once every 3-4 years. So it’s not a cosmological event, but snow is rather rare. There is a big palm tree just outside the window (thick and full like the ones in So Cal), and it was covered in snow. Snow-covered Holy palm trees…that’s one I won’t soon forget!
The school organized a gentiles’ New Year’s eve party for us last evening (the Jewish New Year is in September so 12/31 isn’t a party here). Along that same thought, there are no deflated santas or dead fir trees in people’s yards. We have escaped the post-Christmas bleh.
Since this is my first visit to Isrsel, I am immediately taken by two things: food and history. The food has been spectacular, and we’ve only had two meals. I am so looking forward to exploring the culinary scene. Before coming, I heard people describe Israelis as making the desert bloom, but the freshness and quality of everything I’ve eaten so far has surpassed my best expecations. Given how much we travel, this is high praise.
As you would expect, history is everywhere, except that I didn’t realize how completely and totally grounding it would feel. Some cities reach into the future and toward the sky–like New York, Sydney, Chicago and, increasingly, London. My impression of Jerusalem is that it looks and feels like the buildings are but an extension of the ground–as if the structures pushed themselves up through the earth below. Even though I’ve seen many photos of Jerusalem, this never occurred to me before. And for me, new thoughts and ideas is major reason why I enjoy traveling so much. So super bonus!