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9 March, 20109 March, 2010 0 comments Natalia in the Holy Land Natalia in the Holy Land

 

 

 

"And here is what I know now...goes like this, my salvation lies in your love, my salvation lies in your love" - Orange Sky (the OC Mix 1)

We woke up at 4:15am, ate some pound cake in a hurry, and walked to Masada. The face of the rock - completely devoid of any softening vegetation - rose up swiftly before us as we began the ascent. Masada, the desert fortress built by Herod the Great was the cite of the last great battle between the Jewish rebels and the Romans in the 70s CE. I was the 5th person up from our group and the first girl, which, modesty aside, made me (and our hyper intense tour guide) pretty proud.

After touring the top, we made our way down to breakfast at the hostel, before heading out to the Ein Gedi nature reserve, where we (gasp of happiness!!) swam in a waterfall!! Especially because it had been so hot in Israel, this was beyond refreshing! After returning to the hostel and getting ourselves cleaned up and packed up, we drove to Tel-Aviv. On the drive, we stopped at a rest stop

1 March, 20101 March, 2010 0 comments Natalia in the Holy Land Natalia in the Holy Land

 

"Aint no one gonna break my stride, aint no one that can hold me down, oh no, I've got to keep on moving" - Matisyahu lyrics (originally from Ace of Base?)

The theme of day was ‘The Judean Wilderness," enough said. In the morning we began our descent into the desert to the south. On the way, we stopped in Tiberius to volunteer with Christians who had emigrated from Lebanon; for almost twenty years they had formed the South Lebanese Army and fought on Israel's side, but after Israel pulled out in 2000, they were harassed, persecuted, and forced to flee from their homeland. As a result, they are in Israel. We did some crafts with the kids, played soccer, learned traditional Lebanese dancing (!!), and ate amazing carbohydrate concoctions. They were extremely thankful to have us there and to have the support of the larger international Christian community; it was incredibly touching to see their response to such a small gesture on our part, which once more served as a reminder of the kind of positive effect our smallest actions can have!

After this, we drove to the Dead Sea, where we swam (or rather, floated), covered ourselves in mud, and generally relaxed for the rest of the day! In t

11 February, 201011 February, 2010 0 comments Natalia in the Holy Land Natalia in the Holy Land

All my live I've been waiting for
I've been praying for
for the people to say
that we dont wanna fight no more
they'll be no more wars
and our children will play" - Matisyahu lyrics


This morning we went to the border with Lebanon, where we were given a presentation by an IDF Commander. Having been to the Syrian border, it was enthralling to realize the complexities of Israel's relationships with its various neighbors; for examples, since the 2006 war, the IDF focus mostly on civilian protection at the Lebanese border, seeing to maintain the status quo in the area. Having seen both these borders and stood at the edge of Gaza, one of the things that most amazed me was how small and unprotected the borders looked. We were well aware that they were nothing if not well-protected, but from our vantage point they looked like mere fences...how is that really meant to keep terrorists out, especially from Syria? On an interesting tangent: the IDF uses Arab Bedouins to patrol the borders...by simply looking at the ground, these people can tell if someone has crossed the path and then give you their gender, weight, height, etc. Incredible (especially because they are Arabs, although Israeli citizens)!

After the border, we went to the national park of Tel Dan for a walk through the beautiful natu

9 February, 20109 February, 2010 0 comments Natalia in the Holy Land Natalia in the Holy Land

"I told you to be patient
I told you to be fine
I told you to be balanced
I told you to be kind" - Bon Iver lyrics


The first half of the day was spent "walking in the footsteps of Jesus' Ministry" in Galilee, visiting the site that symbolizes the Sermon on the Mount, the place that symbolizes the miracle of feeding the 5,000, etc. We dipped our feet in the Sea of Galilee as well - so refreshing!

 

After this, we traveled to the Golan Heights and immersed ourselves in the political debate over the area. In part, we visited the ancient town of Gamla, where one of the epic battle-sites of the Roman suppression of the Great Revolt. The Golan is a place of incredible hiking and I was pretty sad to be rushed through it all; however, when I return in several months, I have arranged with Avi and Ohad to go on a solid hike with them...the weather will be much cooler then, so it will at least be bearable to be outside!

4 February, 20104 February, 2010 0 comments Natalia in the Holy Land Natalia in the Holy Land

"Strip away the layers and reveal your soul
Give yourself up and then you become whole" - Matisyahu lyrics


Today was an absolutely beautiful experience!! We said our goodbyes to Jerusalem and drove up along the Coastal Road to the ancient city of Ceasarea Maritima. No surprise here, it was also built by Herod the Great, but the most important aspect is that it was literally an invention of genius at the time of its creation! It was the first ever-artificial harbor!! This may not sound too impressive, but imagine literally singing limestone into the ocean and then building an entire harbor and port on top. Thanks to my obsession with the HBO show "Rome," I knew some of the history surrounding Herod's association with Marc Anthony and, as a result, his wish to build a city in honor of Octavius (later known as Augustus) to gain the Cesar's graces...it was nothing short of awe-inspiring to be walking on such a piece of history! Fun fact: Herod brought the Olympics to Ceasarea and created 2nd and 3rd places for the first time!



After a morning in the hot Israeli sun at Caesarea, we made our way to Nazareth and had a finger-licking-good lunch of falafel a

27 January, 201027 January, 2010 0 comments Natalia in the Holy Land Natalia in the Holy Land

\"Out of darkness comes light, a twilight unto the heights
Crown heights burnin\' up all through the twilight\" - Matisyahu lyrics

 

 

Today we visited the Mount of Olives and walked on the path known as Via Dolorosa, which essentially is supposed to mark the route Jesus took carrying the cross to the crucifixion. I must say that, as a lover of contradictions, I found it particularly striking that most of the way snakes around the Arab quarter; the juxtaposition of religious pilgrims and everyday Arab merchants was arresting. On the way there we had visited the garden of Gethsemane (where Jesus was betrayed by Judas and arrested); seeing as how I am somewhat skeptical of religious cites that claim to mark some biblical story, I must admit that I really enjoyed being in the garden from an entirely literary perspective: Boris Pasternak has a beautiful poem that bears the name of the garden as its title and it is one of my favorite pieces of poetry in any language (the original is in Russian).

 

25 January, 201025 January, 2010 0 comments Natalia in the Holy Land Natalia in the Holy Land


\"Out of darkness comes light, a twilight unto the heights
Crown heights burnin\' up all through the twilight\" - Matisyahu lyrics

 

 

Today we visited the Mount of Olives and walked on the path known as Via Dolorosa, which essentially is supposed to mark the route Jesus took carrying the cross to the crucifixion. I must say that, as a lover of contradictions, I found it particularly striking that most of the way snakes around the Arab quarter; the juxtaposition of religious pilgrims and everyday Arab merchants was arresting. On the way there we had visited the garden of Gethsemane (where Jesus was betrayed by Judas and arrested); seeing as how I am somewhat skeptical of religious cites that claim to mark some biblical story, I must admit that I really enjoyed being in the garden from an entirely literary perspective: Boris Pasternak has a beautiful poem that bears the name of the garden as its title and it is one of my favorite pieces of poetry in any language (the original is in Russian).

21 January, 201021 January, 2010 0 comments Natalia in the Holy Land Natalia in the Holy Land

"That's when I miss you, you who are my home" - "Orange Sky" lyrics

We began our second day in the land of Israel by visiting Yad Vashem, Israel's National Holocaust Memorial. As we had just come from Poland, we did not go into the actual museum, but rather spent our time walking around the extensive gardens. Among other things, we saw all the trees marked with plaques, one for each Righteous Gentile (there are to this day about 22,000 documented ones). The name of Yad Vashem comes from Isaiah 56 in the Bible, where we read the phrase, "I will give them a monument and a name. I will give them a permanent name that will not be forgotten." I won't dwell on this other than to say that, despite the oppressive heat, the walk was really nice and we got to see the many representations that the Israeli people - and the Jews in general - give to the Holocaust and their rebirth.

One of the most amazing parts of the day was walking for 30 minutes through Hezekiah's tunnel,

which was used to fetch water as far back as 700 BCE!!

I'm pre

20 January, 201020 January, 2010 0 comments Natalia in the Holy Land Natalia in the Holy Land

\"That\'s when I miss you, you who are my home\" - \"Orange Sky\" lyrics

We began our second day in the land of Israel by visiting Yad Vashem, Israel\'s National Holocaust Memorial.

As we had just come from Poland, we did not go into the actual museum, but rather spent our time walking around the extensive gardens. Among other things, we saw all the trees marked with plaques, one for each Righteous Gentile (there are to this day about 22,000 documented ones). The name of Yad Vashem comes from Isaiah 56 in the Bible, where we read the phrase, \"I will give them a monument and a name. I will give them a permanent name that will not be forgotten.\" I won\'t dwell on this other than to say that, despite the oppressive heat, the walk was really nice and we got to see the many representations that the Israeli people - and the Jews in general - give to the Holocaust and their rebirth.

One of the most amazing parts of the day was walking for 30 minutes through Hezekiah\'s tunnel, which was used to fetch water as far back as 700 BCE!! I\'m pretty certain that it is the kind of

19 January, 201019 January, 2010 3 comments Natalia in the Holy Land Natalia in the Holy Land

"Jerusalem, if I forget you, let my right hand forget what it's supposed to do" - Matisyahu lyrics

Our first day in Israel was somewhat unreal. First, it should be noted that we flew into Tel-Aviv at 5am and did not check into our hostel in Jerusalem (yes, completely different city) until the afternoon; in other words, we were straight to touring from the airplane. It is also important to keep in mind that I still had a full fever while this was going on, but, as usual, ascribed to the "mind over matter" axiom that leads me to (often erroneously) believe that I can kick my own sicknesses into remission, and kept pushing along.

We got off the airplane in an excited frenzy despite the dire lack of sleep and the less than desirable conditions provided by Lot airlines...those two elements quickly became worth it (personal bias here) when we: (a) happened upon the Israeli National Soccer Team at the airport and (b) knelt down in mass to kiss the ground. It was a muggy, hot, dark morning but we were here, we were in Israel!!

Our sojourn began with a visit to Kibbutz Yad Mordechai, which was named after the 26 year-old commander of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. It was oddly anachronistic to be in a place that was named after so

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