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Harmonious Transmissions From A Small Blue Planet Inspirations, reflections, creations, and spontaneous ramblings as my soul permeates all time and space.

A New Education

ISRAEL | Friday, 24 August 2007 | Views [1042]

Exhausted from a red-eye flight from Athens, my first short-lived sleep in Israel was on the Mediterranean golden sand beaches of Tel Aviv as the sun rose and illuminated the sky and clouds various hues of pink, orange, and blue.  I soon realized that I had a new constant companion in the Middle East that didn't care for much for daytime siestas, the sun.  And this new companion would stick with me for the next two months through sweat, sunburns, and more sweat...as for the first time in my life, I desperately yearned to feel the rain shower over me.

But it seemed the sun was the only true stereotype of the Middle East I found.  Tel Aviv was a far cry from the images of bombs and bloodshed that plague the western media of Israel and its neighboring Middle Eastern countries.  Instead, I was immersed in the Rodeo Drive-esque fashion botiques of the downtown area, and unregretably, swarmed by a sea of some of the most beautiful half-naked sunbathers the world has to offer.  However, the military presence in Israel was very real.  It wasn't uncommon to see teenage soldiers wielding AK-47s while dining out with family, helicopters and warships patrolling the coastline while surfers waited for the next big break, and rigorous security checkpoints at every bus station, shopping mall, and even supermarkets.  That said, I couldn't have felt safer if I had an entourage of body guards following me 24-7.

And Tel Aviv provided some amazing ambassadors to Israel.  Rannie, a climbing buddy we met in Spain, had stepped up his his climbing technique and was ready to show us three of Israel's climbing hot-spots.  Uriel was our urban ambassador to Tel Aviv, eager to show us some superb Tel Aiv skyline vistas from his top-floor apartment...where we drank, joked, and jammed to Matisyahu into the wee hours of the morning.  And Guy, from Jerusalem, taught us how to elbow our way onto a crowded afternoon Jerusalem-bound bus...and took us to the heart of the old city via the dramatic David's gate.

Ahh, Jerusalem...City of Light...if I forget you...let my right hand forget what its to do.  After millenia of being destroyed and rebuilt, the city still radiated its soul.  While some travellers found it annoying, I loved to wake up to Islam's morning prayers sung for the whole city to hear.  Wandering through maze-like alleys that never saw sun, I sometimes felt like a lab rat in some higher being's scince experiment.  Only the merchant stalls selling their yamakas, crucifixes, or Qu'Rans gave me clue to which "holy neighborhood" I was in.  The pilgrim-watching here was mezmerizing, and I generally found their devotion to be quite inspiring...Christian monks clad in black with their crucifixes dangling to their waste, Hasidic Jews with their tall, fuzzy hats and long curls, fully-robed Muslim men and women...all crossing paths on their way to prayer, yet rarely giving even a shred of recognition to their fellow man.

My own spiritual revelation occurred to me as I walked through the dark, echoing halls of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre...the supposed site of Christ's burial and resurrection.  As I watched tourists and pilgrims alike superstitiously touch and kiss various slabs of stone and other relics...I couldn't force myself to believe some divine blessing was being bestowed on me for touching a stone.  It didn't even matter to me if Jesus died in this tomb or the other room around the hall.  What I found was a living place.  Here, in this city, lived a man so courageous he died living his message of pure LOVE...loving those who wronged him as much as his family and friends...turning a cheek and resisting adversity non-violently, to show others a new radical way of thinking and living.  I felt inspired by the man, who lived truly by his own heart, who has much to teach the people, especially the current political leaders, of the Middle East today. 

The stone walls of Old Jerusalem taught me a similar lesson.  As I stared down at layer upon layer of ruins...struggle, destruction, rebirth...I wondered...For what?  What lesson was taken from all the battles fought in the name of God?  An interesting conversation with a wise, yet tired, Palestinian helped me put it into perspective.  If Jerusalem is truly a holy place, sacred to millions around the world, maybe it's humanity's collective spirit that keeps it from an exclusive possession.  Just as a mountain remains indiffernt to both the pilgrim who humbly admires its timeless majesty from a distance and the climber who dies trying to conquer its summit...so Jerusalem remains indifferent to both worshiper and warrior.  I believe the only lesson the history of this magnificent city has taught us is the world will never be content with the exclusive ownership and worship of this magnificent place...it's destined to be shared by ALL.  Only the humble pilgrim lives to return to revel in the mountain's majesty (side note: I think all this Eastern philosophy is starting to rub off on me...hehe)

I tried to hold on to this sense of reverence of place as I visited more of Israel's landmarks...floating in the Dead Sea, biking around the Sea of Galilee (actually its a lake...I just like to believe I rode a bike around a sea), walking around Haifa's beautiful Baha'i garden terraces, and exploring the sea caves of Rosh Haniqra.  Leaving Israel overland by bus, I reflected on the Israel I spent 3 weeks travelling through...an Israel much different from the one shown on ABC News.  So if I ever become reporter I think I'll give Israel a good spin for once...something like, "Today in the news...Israel's most delicious falafel stand was discovered by a ravished American tourist!"   

Tags: Culture

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