Sometimes everything has to be enscribed across the heavens so you can find the one line already written inside you. Sometimes it takes a great sky to find that small, bright, and indescribable wedge of freedom in your own heart. David Whyte

Journey to Israel: Going Up to Jerusalem

From Jericho the road to Jerusalem runs upward. As the road rises into the hills everything is cooler and greener, and rocky. I’m using the present tense because I sense from ancient days unto the present many people for many reasons have been making this journey. I’m glad I did not keep a journal to use years later as a guide for writing the stories of my trip in 1974. Writing from scraps of memory leaves space for me to encounter mists of new ideas and understanding that have arisen inside me since I first went to Jerusalem. I think of Jericho and its many layers. When I first visited Israel I pictured the places and people I knew from the Bible. I couldn’t imagine that I would find present-day people and cities. It was like going to a strange planet where I formed an unexpected kinship. Over the years I have read much about Israel, mostly novels because I learn history best through stories. The story of Israel reaches far out into the modern world. Writing my own stories reveals roots connecting me to Israel.


Journey to Israel: New Sights and a Back Story

After our morning at Masada we climbed back on the bus and headed to the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea is 1,295 ft. below sea level, the lowest point on earth. And you can not sink in its salty water. I put on my bathing suit and waded in until the water was neck-deep hoping to wash the dust of Masada off. I let my feet rise and floated effortlessly. It was lovely. I came out of the water minus some of the dust but with my body covered in salt. After a quick shower I was ready to move on.

Our next stop was Jericho, located in the Judean wilderness. Some say it is 10,000 years old, the oldest city on earth. The old city and its walls which “came tumbling down” have been excavated. A fact of archaeology is that ancient places have many layers of soil deposited above them and to see very old cities you have to look down. It was like looking down a deep well and imagining a once-inhabited ghost city at the bottom.

I am seeing my journey to Israel with new eyes. I’m looking backward and finding fresh perspectives on a trip I took forty-three years ago. I did not keep a daily journal and no longer have the photo slides my husband took of our trip. After I returned from Israel I put together a slide show for my church. On two-and-a-half pages of narrow-ruled yellow legal pad paper I wrote (in long-hand) a commentary for the slide show. I have these pages before me now. The words are my guide for the stories I’m writing for my blog. The more I write the more I remember. I can visualize sights I haven’t thought about in years. I’ve forgotten some dates and facts about Israel but that is what Google is for. So much has changed for me and for Israel but words retain their power to stir my imagination and communicate.


Journey to Israel 1974: The Story of Masada

Originally Masada was the location of the Summer Palace of the Jewish King Herod, built around 35 BCE. It stood on a rocky plateau 1,300 ft.above the level of the Dead Sea. In 70 CE in the aftermath of the Roman’s razing and burning the Temple in Jerusalem, the Jewish Zealots fled and fortified themselves and their families in Herod’s Summer Palace. In retaliation the Roman Army began their siege of Masada by building an earthen ramp to extend to the Palace fortress. After three years when the ramp was nearing completion the Jews, numbering three hundred and sixty, committed suicide rather than be killed or taken prisoner by the Romans. Two women and three children hid and survived. They told the story to Josephus the Roman historian.

Masada was excavated by archaeologists in 1963-1965. The first tourists to see Masada followed a serpentine path to climb up to the site. In 1971 a cable car was installed. We had the good fortune in 1974 to ride the cable car to the rocky, dusty top of the plateau to visit Masada. The plateau was quite large. A low wall close to the plateau’s edge surrounded the area. Looking over it we could see the Roman ramp reaching to the wall. I imagined the Jews watching the daily progress of the Roman builders knowing there was no escaping their eventual death or capture. I was horrified to imagine the desperation that led to mass suicide. I felt the fear and relief of the two women and their five children who remained. I gave thanks for the historian Josephus for writing down the story of Masada, his gift to succeeding generations. I thanked the modern-day archaeologists who excavated the ruins so I could stand on the plateau and remember Masada.

Writing today, in 2017, I grieve for the recent destruction of ancient cultural and religious sites and artifacts that have borne testimony to civilizations through the ages.


Journey to Israel 1974: Mosaic

Israel is a pattern of Holy and historic sites, the ancient and the up-to-date. It is as new as the group of us who gathered to begin our journey, forty-one Jews and four Christians. The Jews came from Westchester County and New York City, New York. Some were European immigrants who had fled the Holocaust. Others were the parents of children who had left the U.S. to live on a Kibbutz. Our tour guide was a Sabra, born in an Israeli territory.

Israel is as new as Ashdod, founded in 1957 on empty sand dunes, now on the way to becoming a major seaport. It is as old as Askelon, one of the five principal cities of the Philistine Kingdom, where Sampson lived. As we drove beside the Mediterranean from Tel Aviv these were the first places we saw. The third, Yad Mordecai, was a Kibbutz inhabited by survivors of the Warsaw Ghetto and the last settlement on the road before the Gaza strip. These survivors once played a part in protecting Israel from an advancing Egyptian army by creating a delaying tactic that gave the Israeli soldiers time to prepare their defenses. They made life-like wooden figures of soldiers and stationed them in a field of tall grasses. The Egyptians halted their march at the sight of this mock army and the survivors saved the day – a modern tale of David and Goliath. The wooden battalion was still there, testimony to the bravery and cunning of the Warsaw survivors.

The road turned east as the day ended. We drove through the barren and rocky hills of the Negev Desert, timeless home to the Bedouins and their herds of goats. At day’s end we checked into the Massada Inn for a good night’s rest before we journeyed on Massada in the morning.


Journey to Israel 1974: The Beginning

In the spring of 1974 my husband and I decided to travel to Israel. We booked a two-week trip with the Golden Circle Tours. In our reservation packages we received necessary practical information concerning travel within Israel, our itinerary and an orange and white yamaka to wear so our tour guide could keep track of us. From years of Sunday School I felt I had some idea of the places we would visit. To learn more I read James Mitchner’s The Source. In order to learn something about contemporary Jewish people I read Chaim Potok’s excellent novels. My readings left lots of space to experience the Israeli people, their culture and their history that I would encounter on my journey.

We flew to Israel on El Al with a stop-over at London’s Heathrow Airport. Flying El Al was our first taste of Israel. The crew members were Israeli, they spoke Hebrew and our meals were Kosher. In the aftermath of the Yom Kippur War in October of 1973 security was tight. When we landed at Heathrow we were surrounded on the tarmac by security vehicles and armed guards and not allowed to leave the plane. We flew on from London to Tel Aviv, our final destination. As the sun was setting and we began our long descent over the water toward Lod Airport, people on the plane began singing the Hatikvah, the National Anthem of Israel. Forty years later I still get goosebumps remembering.


Haiku: Daily Prompt – Privacy

Time aloneĀ is gold
To an introvert like me
Precious currency


Haiku: Closet Artist

Clothes hung by colors
Learned from my Crayola box
Life-long aesthetic


Haiku: The Morning News

Dull gold and pewter
Sun and mounds of clouds reflect
Present hope downcast


Haiku: Good Morning, Wednesday

Candle light flickers
Empty coffee cup still warm
Meditation done



Imagine dawn sky dressed in pink-ribboned clouds
Trees green-leaved in summer
Changing colors for autumn
Sobered by stillness of bare-branched winter
Chilling cold and deep silence.

Imagine a mother of sons and grandchildren
Heart filled with wonder, love, joy
And trepidation
World is near changing
Beyond recognition.

Imagine aging a worthy challenge
Rich adventures and exploring
Forge wisdom a gift
Hard-won and enduring
Unknown roads lie ahead

But for today the sun is shining
Golden hours to seize and embrace.
Shadows, too, can be lovely
I’ll plumb them tomorrow.
Translating my life into poems.