Israel Immersion Trip: Journal 3
Alex Avtgis 11' - Waking, I rose sweaty, suffering from an interesting recollection of my dream(s). Two days after having first stepped and grounded my legs onto the Holy Land, my nights were consumed already by the contested battle; back and forth between the Hebrew Zionist-call and the Arab-Palestinian “Right of Return” did my mind swirl. All night this debate fired, preying openly on my mind. I woke to the phone alarm, with immediate thoughts of danger; perhaps another salvo of raging missiles and useless fighting had struck again, (phantoms of my imagination) and, that again I was left stranded and victim to the attrition.
To you, this might not be real; however, to every innocent citizen plagued by the eternal clash of ideologies, this thought looms omnipotent. Although most of the current generation denies it, purposely dodging or contesting the situation in conversation, Palestine still hasn’t experienced a rest in the last sixty years. Still a reliable and steady resolution remains lost, lacking.
But enough of that—for us American foreigners shooting mere snapshots of the land and soaking in the deepness of the soil and the fresh of the air, life was great.
After eating a hearty and ethnic breakfast, including eggs roasted in olive oil and roasted tomatoes, fresh salmon, and Turkish goat’s cheese, or feta, we embarked. The drive was ahead, and our journey was destined to be good: today Wabash would end the day in the Holiest of Holies, entering the city gates of the Israeli capital, Jerusalem.
In between though, multiple things would ensue, some not to our control.
After having driven the now-familiar coast of the Sea of Galilee, we stopped at the foot of the Jordan River. There we learned that we were (possibly) at the spot where Jesus would have conducted the majority of his baptisms, and would have a chance to be baptized in the same Jordan. Given the opportunity however, my P.B. (Pledge-Brother) Luke Bielawski arose as the champion of the group, and clearly the only one brave enough to encounter the icy cold waters. Adorning only a white robe, he entered a corral style nook of the river and submerged himself head to foot with the holy waters.
At this point, I will diverge a bit from my PB. As I watched his submersion, I looked around and noticed how truly diverse the tourist population was. At my left were three German elderly women, fourteen middle-aged Chinese men and women, all in addition to the visiting busses of Nigerians. In this instant, I took a breath. This spot, one which meant truckloads to my pledge brother, must have meaning beyond imagination: people from opposite corners of the world experienced this right alongside him, sharing a similar understanding despite their apparent language barrier.
Back to the bus. Traveling further south, we stopped later for a water break of particular peculiarity. Up until this point, we had remained only in the North, revealing to us a SURPRISINGLY lush cornucopia of brush and crops. However, in a matter of two hours, the Israel which we had finally grown to comprehend decided to throw us a curve ball. The camels finally came, and the sand, and the heat, and the dreaded desert. Our stop was in the middle of a brazen, helter-skelter heat of a wilderness, only comforted by the occasional palm tree and prickly and dried brush.
Back to the bus. By this time, my fellow journeymen understood that although travel by bus is a highly efficient and necessary means to experience the country, it consumes much energy and time. (I’m not contradicting the well known and stated fact that Israel as a whole is small, but merely voicing some petty criticism).
As we left the bus for a third time, we were granted with a pleasant surprise: Masada awaited us. For those of you unfamiliar to Jewish written history concerning the Herodian period, then too bad. Not really – Masada was an early second century Jewish fortress standing solitary on a Palestinian Plateau. Shortly after, however, the Romans took the fort, besieging it.
(IN INTEREST OF THE READER): We then drove the whole length of the Dead Sea, and then entertained a much needed mud bath. See the pictures if you have any questions. Actually, don’t ask any.
And then, we entered Jerusalem. Beauty. Stunning. Serenity. Mosques, Christian Churches, and the Old City Walls. The calling of the prayer, and the Jewish Haredi (Modern Ultra-Orthodox).
Eretz Israel. How I love thee.
Photos: Top- Luke Bielawski '11 dips himself in the Jordan River, Middle- Craig Cochran '10 admires the view from atop Mas'ada, Bottom- the group gets covered in mud from the Dead Sea