When Moses stood in Jordan on the Mount of Moab and looked across to The Promised Land, I sure hoped it looked a lot different than it does today. Personally I wasn’t seeing the Milk or the Honey….or anywhere it could come from. I stood there for a good 10 minutes, squinting into the distance, looking for what, at the time would be our first glimpse of Jerusalem. Aziz, our Jordanian guide assured me you could see it on a clear day. Well, I guess we would have to take that on faith.
And faith, it seems, is at the heart of Israel’s challenges. The city of Jerusalem is one of the most contested in the world. It contains many of the holiest sites for three of the world’s larger religions – Islam, Christianity and Judaism
One might wonder with all that holy goodness, that it should rather be the most peaceful place on earth.
And to complicate things further, each of these religions have sects or denominations that quarrel between themselves over matters of theology. They can’t even agree to disagree.
When thinking of Israel, most people conjure up images of military checkpoints and searches, endless barriers of wall and wire, firepower and weaponry visible on a constant basis. Israel is all of this, I won’t sugar coat it. But the country is so much more. Tourists, travellers and pilgrims are inexplicably drawn to it, like moths to a flame.
On announcing our intention to include Israel and particularly Jerusalem on our itinerary, we were met with a variety of less than positive responses ranging from “Are you sure that’s a good idea” right through to “Are you $#%*!?! crazy?”. Yet these were mostly delivered with sighs of wistfulness as friends and family admitted, that they too would like to see the wonders of this holiest of holy cities.
And with the benefit of 20/20 vision that hindsight provides I can say, without hesitation, it’s worth swallowing your fears and going.
We “did” Israel in 8 days. Nowhere near enough time to explore the wonders of this country, but enough to get the highlights and a feel for the history, the religion, the people and the unique challenges of living in such a politically and religiously sensitive nation.
Our itinerary (the basis for future blog topics) included
2. The holy sites of the West Bank in the Palestinian Territories
3. The Sea of Galillee and it’s surrounds
4. The Golan Heights
Ideally with more time I would have included Haifa and Tel Aviv… But it gives us a reason to return.
We saw sites where miracles took place, homes of saints, towns where Jesus trod.
We visited temples dedicated to the pagan gods of old, towering crusader castles, the lowest place on earth, cascading falls and springs.
We glimpsed into the lives of the locals, complete with security checkpoints, car searches, walls of cement and barbed wire, M16s and AK47s.
Israel has it all….
But did we find Moses’ promised land – the Land of Milk and Honey…
…eventually and with a little effort. Stay tuned to find out more…
5 TIPS FOR TRAVELLING IN ISRAEL
1. Always..and I mean always carry your passport with you when travelling through the country. There are frequent checkpoints on the road as you pass through Palestinian territories while travelling to and from various tourist sites even if you are not stopping in the Territories.
2. Early morning and lunch time are the best times to see the Holy Sites of Jerusalem to beat the crowds and sometimes long queues.
3. The old city is not quieter on the Sabbath despite that you might think everyone is in their home fasting. The city instead fills with visiting tourists from other parts of Israel and day trippers from Tel Aviv
4. Wear pants or skirts that cover your knees and ladies keep a scarf handy, to avoid issues in holy sites. At The Dome of the Rock if you require a scarf you do not have to buy overpriced ones from them…insist on a loan.. it takes some pushing…but they have them hidden away.
5. You remember the need of travelling Australians to try the local brew in every country they visit? Well under no circumstance do you need to try Palestininan beer…trust me on this….I’m serious…..really!