Saturday, March 19, 2011

And it stoned me to my soul

Perhaps it's the time between posts that we've let pass without blogging, or maybe it's sharing our journey with other people - but I'm going to break our cardinal rule of blogging and do some highlights rather than focusing on one piece.  I'll leave the specific history lesson up to Steve (for instance, the black line shown below at Masada that designates orginal ruins versus reconstructions...but I digress).

We've now been in (and around and under and through) Israel for over a week - we've seen the token must-sees and have experienced some highlights outside of the the usual agenda of "visiting the homeland," so here's hoping you enjoy reading (and seeing) a little bit of both. 

Note:  Those two extra special folks you see in the photos with us are my parents, Jude and Pete, who trekked out to Israel to meet up with us.  We feel so lucky to have spent this time with them exploring and loving every minute of it.

1.)  Standing on 2000 year old stone: no matter what your knowledge of Israel is prior to the trip, your spiritual practice, or your footwear, standing on 2000 year old stone is an amazing experience (see photo at right).  Just being surrounded by such antiquity stunts you in time, making every ancient story come to life: controversial archeological digs (as described by our guide, "You dig down one level and you find something amazing from one century and one culture, you dig down another, you find more, but you must destroy the first level to get to the second...pretty contraversial situation you've got on your hands"), stones cut to King Herod's specifications from over 1500 years ago, posing and/or wading in thigh-deep water through tunnels actually mentioned in the Old Testament, and of course, the Western Wall.  Without launching too far into how moving it is to stand in front of the Western Wall for the first time after having seen pictures of and heard stories about it your entire life, I can comment on the amazing feeling present all around the Old City of so many people, cultures, and religions coming together to experience what they have heard about their entire lives in one single place.  What better place to experience history than with so many others feeling the historical significance with you?

2.)   Blending in with the culture: Steve and I have loved this aspect of the trip which hasn't been about becoming part of the culture by pretending we are part of the culture, but rather getting mixed up in it just by sitting at a cafe and people watching and/or doing our thing, while glancing up on occasion to observe life as it goes by. (However, I must note that even though Israel is part of the Middle East - between the metropolitan feel and, yes, my curly hair, we sure do fit in better here than in other places we've visited - like here.)  Below are some shots of our observations as well as us becoming part of the blended Israeli smoothie....or hummous....or (oh, never mind, I'll stop trying to take this "blending" analogy too far).

3.)  Doing our part to bring peace in the Middle East - for instance, by patronizing the many different quarters of the Old City...(note the before and after barber shots):

4.)  Dreaming about our contribution to Israeli society in ways that most visitors do not: for instance, by composing in our minds, a story about all of the cats that lurk around every Jerusalem corner.  I'm talking every corner.  We've been told that cats are to Jerusalem as squirrels are to New York - well, that analogy was all we needed to get us talking about a story line, main characters, illustration style, publishing house, etc.  Don't be surprised when we hit the best seller list with a book lovingly dedicated to our cats at home.  Below are some of our main characters, though they were a bit too skittish for us to catch their names (with the exception of the first one who we named Jessie because we couldn't figure out its sex).

5.)  Floating 423 meters below sea level: no trip to Israel is complete without covering thyself with mud and floating thy butt in the Dead Sea.  We partook in both commandments.

6.)  Finally, one of the highlights of our trip was having the honor to be a part of the reenactment of a significant historical discovery.  The high fortress and town of Masada was built by King Herod (well, we can assume that he sat idly by while his [ahem] workers built it for him) between 37 and 31 BCE.  About 75 years after his death, a group of Jewish "rebels" and zealots fled Jerusalem after the destruction of the first templei n 70 CE and settled high up on the Masada plateau.  The story goes that this group of Jews fended off the Romans who were trying to seige the town by way of an earth ramp for two years!  As detailed by the Jewish Virtual Library, "the defenders – almost one thousand men, women and children – led by Eleazar ben Ya’ir, decided to burn the fortress and end their own lives, rather than be taken alive. [Josephus Flavius describes] 'And so met (the Romans) with the multitude of the slain, but could take no pleasure in the fact, though it were done to their enemies. Nor could they do other than wonder at the courage of their resolution, and at the immovable contempt of death which so great a number of them had shown, when they went through with such an action as that was.” As pacifists, rather than reenact the breaching of the walls of Masada by the Romans and the death of the Jews, we decided to demonstrate some unsung heros in the history of Masada: Herod's pigeons.  Thousands of these pigeons lived in a coop that can now be found relatively in tact amongst the Masada ruins.  They provided meat for the residents and guests of Masada (ew) and probably fertilizer for the crops (ew again).  Below, please find photographs of some of our tableaux in honor of the birds (notice Sarah's wings and Peter's "cooing") as well as a live video in which I do an interpretive dance entitled "Herod's Coop."  The Art Director and Editor were none other than Steve P(igeon) Chasey:

And there you have it - some highlights from our amazing time in Israel thus far.  We've still a couple of days to go and, by our travel books, this country is a wifi hotspot, so I have a feeling you'll be hearing a little more from Steve than his last post (now that he's recovered by taking daily supplements of shawarma).  Signing off from near the Sea of Galilee - good night!


  1. How wonderful it all looks and sounds. And such a bonus to all be there together.