Sunday, June 21, 2015

Jerusalem Part 1

Well, Jerusalem happened again. It was totally bizarre. It was there, as big and golden and beautiful as it was before. And sometimes I was strangely unaffected and unemotional, and once I was weeping openly, and most of the time I was something in between but closer to the unemotional side of the spectrum. Maybe all the emotions just got spilled out in the dead of winter's nights while I was nursing a baby and contemplating the trip-to-be. So by the time I got there, I just....was.

It wasn't what I had expected or planned. I always knew I would be back; the place has had too much to do with my life for too long. But I hadn't really planned on doing it this way, the way that most normal people "do" Jerusalem. I went with a tour group, on a tour bus, with two tour guides actually, with an unyielding itinerary that I didn't choose, with (and this was the great part that made the rest of it worth it) my whole family. I'd never known that my dad had dreamed of being in the Holy Land with his family. But around Christmas he suggested the possibility that this summer we could all be there together - Tyler home from his mission, Derek leaving soon, Jordan and Heather married, only two children to worry about (and touring Israel this way is not for toddlers folks). So it came together, and suddenly we were all going, and I had a little breakdown and had to talk it out with my parents, and my poor sweet dad was bewildered that his daughter who loves Jerusalem was worried about the way her (in my own words) "failed academic career" and deep emotional attachment to a world that would seem very, very foreign to her siblings and lack of control over the itinerary would affect her ability to enjoy the experience.   

But as the new reality settled into my head and my expectations began to adjust to meet it, my emotions settled down too and I could look forward to it. The opportunity to go sooner than expected was, of course, exciting, no matter how the going would happen. And I just had to lower my expectations for me. My academic career isn't necessarily "failed," it's just on a shelf right now. No, my Hebrew isn't where I would like it to be. No, I don't remember everything I've ever read or learned about Jerusalem and the people who live there. No, I'm not going back at the moment as a professor at the Jerusalem Center and no, I don't know if I'll ever be able to. But in the months preceding the trip I could read a little to prepare and I learned to be okay with where I am now. In the end, my siblings were generous to me and asked a lot of questions while we drove around on the bus, and they pretended to be interested while I enthusiastically spilled everything I know (which, I was impressed to find out, was quite a lot!). I loved talking about that place. I loved talking about Judaism. I loved explaining why things are so difficult there. And my siblings were very mature about how they experienced Jerusalem, even when confronting dirt and trash and strong smells (good and bad) and dark, ornate sacred spaces where the air is thick with frankincense.

I did miss - almost achingly so - the freedom to wander and linger and return to a place if I wanted to. I missed the chances to sit at a place for a while and hear myself think. The tour was busy, fast, filled to the breaking point with things to do and see and experience. Our Israeli tour guide (required by law) talked constantly when we were at sites and on the bus. He was a knowledgeable fellow and a good man. I will never forget (or completely forgive him for) how much he talked, but I will also always remember the moment when I climbed the stairs of the ancient tomb in Bethany where Lazarus had once lain, thinking to save my mom from a crying, hungry Anna, only to find George cradling Anna in his arms, singing her lullabies in Aramaic while the Muslim prayer call echoed from a minaret above him. Don't we travel in the end to remember how alike we are across our cultural, linguistic, religious divisions?  I learned that fatherhood doesn't look that different half a world away.

We're still gathering pictures from all the picture-takers, but here are some for your perusal (in absolutely no order whatsoever):

Jerusalem Center Auditorium

Sea of Galilee
Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem

Sheep in Shepherd's Field, Outside Bethlehem

Original Second Temple Steps, Jerusalem

Original Second Temple Steps, Jerusalem

Dome of the Rock, Temple Mount, Jerusalem


Hezekiah's Tunnel, Jerusalem (it was really dark and the flash was really bright :P)

Jewish Quarter, Jerusalem

Seven Arches Overlook, Jerusalem

Seven Arches Overlook, Jerusalem

Olive Wood Jimmer (yes, really), Jimmy's Bazaar, Jerusalem

Caesarea Maritima

Mt. Precipice, Outside Nazareth

Church of the Beatitudes, Galilee


1 comment:

Kelsey said...

That's so wonderful! Sharing those experiences must've been like a dream!

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