I recently returned from a ten day trip to Israel with my parents... it was a whirlwind of sightseeing, a rollercoaster of emotions.
We went around Galilee, a sea you can easily see across and drive around in an hour or two, and saw where Jesus lived, ministered and performed miracles.
We stopped along at Qumran and Masada along the Dead Sea. Masada being the single most impressive excavated monument and Qumram, impressive for its recent role played in modern Christianity with the finding of the Dead Sea Scrolls of the Essenes.
I'll be honest- I was a little cynical for the majority of the time, second guessing the magnitude of all that we were seeing, as it has been essentially destroyed by man's hand in commemorating, even capitalizing on the tourism, with gaudy monuments and churches built atop these storied places.
Cynical until standing at the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem, which was the single greatest experience I've had in my life, fittingly indescribable: there really is no adequate vocabulary for The Divine Spirit.
Meeting one of my mother's childhood friends one night who has lived in Jerusalem for almost 30 years, raising her family and dedicating her life to Israeli-Palestinian peace and conflict studies was a very interesting time to spend.
The most depressing place we went to was Bethlehem, on the West Bank side of the border. We had to leave our Israeli guide in Israel and pick up a local Palestinian guide for the couple hours we were there. She was unbelievably upbeat. Her husband taught at the University of Michigan for a while, but they elected to return to Bethlehem. Kind of unimaginable. Home is home, I suppose. It was sad to look out on Shepherd's Field, where it is commemorated that Jesus Christ was born to see the modern high-tension border that cuts through it, as well as the nearby Church of the Nativity, a place where man has once again wrecked havoc over something sacred. Of course, my interpretation of sacred being subjective. Hard to explain in a blog post...
It was a huge privilege to go. I wish everyone could. However, exiting Hezekiah's Tunnel the last day (cool experience) and hearing gunshots from the Temple Mount at the al-Aqsa mosque, (where I was standing the day before!), makes me prone to think Jerusalem will not be safe to visit for much longer, and the state of Israel may even fail to exist as it stands currently. Who even knows?! It's just sad to presume the conflict that awaits all the people, more than perhaps the institution that is "Israel" itself.
Overall a fascinating and heartbreaking trip, with so many thoughts I don't want to expound upon in a public forum.
I pray for some semblance of peace to them.