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Posts Tagged ‘Israel’

 

“The beginning of love is the will to let those we love be perfectly themselves, the resolution not to twist them to fit our own image. If in loving them we do not love what they are, but only their potential likeness to ourselves, then we do not love them: we only love the reflection of ourselves we find in them”   Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island
“The most adventurous journey to embark on; is the journey to yourself, the most exciting thing to discover; is who you really are, the most treasured pieces that you can find; are all the pieces of you, the most special portrait you can recognize; is the portrait of your soul.”   C. JoyBell C.

It was much sadder than I had anticipated, saying goodbye to the people who had shared my journey of self-discovery as we toured the Middle East. I began my journey alone and fleeing from a situation I needed to put into perspective. I had learned so much as we travelled these ancient lands and found a friend when I least expected to do so.  Yet my journey was not yet done.

The trip back to Tel Aviv was not without dramas, but then, after so many airports I had no expectations that it would be any different. I was no longer part of a tour group. Yes, I had my trip planned to go back to Tel Aviv but I was a single traveller once more, with no guide to wend an easy path through the departure rigmarole, and no-one speaking English within sight or sound. So it was with relief that I finally emerged through Israeli customs and was met by my driver to take me back to my hotel.

For two weeks I spent my time wandering through Tel Aviv and Jaffa and reacquainting myself with those people I had met when I first arrived. I went back to Caesarea and sat gazing out to sea wondering what the many people who had lived there had thought when their time came to leave. (That is not discounting the many people who have remained in the area all this time and still call it home, but of the “invaders”, that is a different story.) Of them, not many had chosen to leave voluntarily.

At one point I found myself perched on one of the large column blocks, not thinking, mind just drifting along in a sudden period of silence. I suddenly felt held in place by some unseen force as I heard a “clanking” all around me – a sound I recognised as the sound chain mailed and armoured bodies make as they walk around.  There was the smell of the ocean strong in my nose, then overtaken by the coppery smell of blood. Ships were in the harbour, a forest of trees as the masts swayed in the ocean swell, waiting to take the remaining crusaders to safety. The fighting had been intense and the casualties too high.

As I sat there mesmerised, I saw a mailed hand descend on my shoulder.

The voice belonging to that mailed glove said, “Come now, Bertrand, there is nothing more to be done here. It is time to leave. We have been given our orders”.

From within the space where I sat another crusader rose to stand beside his lifelong friend. As I watched they hurriedly descended through the tunnels to the docks. I felt a pull from somewhere deep inside as if I was meant to go along too. Finally I saw them in the boats being shepherded out to the waiting ships. The relief that they both made it as far as the ships was overwhelming. As they left my sight the sounds and smells of the day seemed to suddenly crowd in again.

Was I day dreaming or did something just happen? Was I shown a glimpse of the past or was it a glimpse of another life? All I know for certain is there was an intense connection with Bertrand as he sat on the column, one which pulled me along with him as they left the garrison. One which allowed me to feel how heavy his heart was at leaving this place and the loss he felt with the death of a dear friend. 

I left later, still somewhat dazed by the revelations of the day. In some strange way I felt part of myself had been there on that day and my drive home I felt as if I was on the high seas. Incredible!

The often otherworldly experiences as I had walked these ancient lands had been making a profound change within me. After my return, instead of following the glam and glitter of the nightclub scene I was offered by my friends, I chose to remain alone much of the time.

#InSearchof

Tel Aviv Boulevard

We still met for coffee at the beautiful venues along the Tel Aviv esplanade when we could, always entranced by this incredible area. I wandered the Ha Carmel markets and visited the large shopping centres, seeing a life so similar to the everyday that one almost forgot the armed security guards at each entrance. I wandered Ben- Gurion Avenue and saw the home of David and Paula Ben Gurion. David Ben Gurion was the first Prime Minister of Israel. The somewhat unimpressive exterior hides their home which they lived in until 1970. The upstairs rooms, all four, were floor to ceiling books, 20,000 of them!

Oh for a library of that calibre. I often forgot to take photos on these meanderings and this is a picture of their kibbutz home I saw there which shows the vast difference between their old home and the place they spent the remainder of their days.

#InSearchof

Image from triptoisrael2006.blogspot.com Ben Gurion Boulevard

In the evenings I again resumed my walks to Jaffa and then sat on the esplanade enjoying the ocean breeze. The beautiful weather had been a tremendous gift whilst I had been there and the sunsets were something I would always remember. At those times it seemed as though a special light, a Spiritual light, was healing all the broken parts inside me and leaving me feeling at peace. There is no other way to describe the feeling of serenity with which I would leave after the sunset and head back to my hotel for a latte in the lounge. The girls there spoilt me with their generosity.

The feelings of a deep peace and a blossoming of my Spirit gave me a belief that there was so much more than this everyday existence we often become bogged down in. The majestic expansiveness of life, the mystery of past, present and future, all being available if we but allow it, was a blessing I had not imagined nor expected to find here. I realised that there was far more for me to do in this lifetime, and thoughts of leaving it behind became like dim memories.

#InSearchof

Glorious sunset over the Mediterranean.

The time came to leave Tel Aviv all too soon and it was with a very heavy heart that I packed my bags once more.

Leaving brought one unpleasant reality to the fore.  I had over packed before I left and with all the pieces I had acquired on my travels, for myself (of course), and my family, I had far too much luggage to take with me to Athens and then Switzerland. Pragmatism came to the fore and when I repacked, I did so with the intention of leaving one case in storage at the Athens airport.  It was far less expensive than paying excess baggage!

A HINT for anyone travelling overseas, Check ALL the countries/airlines baggage allowances before you leave and pack for the least amount allowed. It is not only easier on the back it is far less expensive on the pocket!

Whilst sad to be leaving, and feeling certain there was more I could learn, of a personal and spiritual nature, I was looking forward to my quick visit to Athens whilst I made my way to my friend in Geneva. There was a certainty that my time there would be as fruitful to my yearning to learn my spiritual reason for being here, and so with mixed feelings I left.

A snapshot of the wonders of these ancient lands.

Israel will always remain a special and wonderful time in my life, a time when uncertainty and pain were replaced with a belief and surety that life has more meaning than our everyday existence.

 

Next Week…….Geneva and Switzerland.

Blessings, Susan ♥

© Susan Jamieson 2014

 

 

 

 

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In Search of...Airports and Cairo

image from www-josephinewall-co.uk

The drive to the Ben Gurion airport was straight forward. For the rest of the tour group it was with mixed feelings that they were leaving. We had seen so many delightful things, the history and the way of life in Israel. For me, it was just a hiatus.  After the tour was concluded I was coming back to Tel Aviv for a further two weeks, I wasn’t finished with Israel yet.

What a difference having a tour guide made at the airport. The speed with which we were ushered through the checking in process was awesome, until it ground to an unseemly halt. Both Mel and I were selected to have our bags thoroughly checked out. Why were we chosen? I have no idea. Well, one, we were the only “single young females” in the group. Perhaps rifling through our underwear was part of the thrill of travelling overseas? Finally through we had our tickets, instructions that we would be met at Cairo airport and we were off on the next stage of our adventure.

#In Search of..Airports and Cairo

image from http://www.timesofisrael.com      Searching for the smallest thing

We traveled on Egypt Air this time and the plane gave the impression it might shake itself to pieces before we arrived in Cairo. No-one was inclined to walk around the plane this trip! However, it didn’t take long before we were landing and lining up to go through customs. The tour official who met us was a strange man indeed. He had a high pitched giggle which seemed to pop out far too often. Definitely not a laugh to make you feel comfortable, and then it all began again.

Mel and I were pointed to as we lined up with our luggage. No, they didn’t want to go through our clothes, this time they wished to search us! Much pointing ensued as we were hustled over to two semi partitioned cubicles where the ladies were searched by female airport security staff.  I’m sorry to say I was attacked by the humour of the situation and had an attack of the giggles. I don’t think the very stern looking, short and fat female security ladies found me amusing. At all!  Prodded and patted and twirled around, the prodding and patting down continued and then out came the wand to be whirled up and down our body. I nearly choked in the effort to stop laughing. If it hadn’t been for the tour official running around, his high pitched voice clearly audible where we were, I think we may have been retained a while longer.

#In Search of...Airports and Cairo

image from www-demotix-com. Egyptair

Finally released, we collected our bags and made our way through the airport, at speed, towards the bus awaiting us at the kerb. The bags seemed to be dispatched at greater speed into the bowels of the bus, as we were hurriedly ushered inside. Then came the most amazing lesson of all. Transport in Cairo.

I should explain that the main entrance into Cairo, from the airport, had six lanes, three each way. We are all fairly familiar with the road system, whether we drive on the right or left hand side of the road. Nothing however, could prepare anyone for this. The three inbound lanes became six! Two vehicles per lane, and it made no difference whatsoever how large either vehicle was. Pedestrians scuttled madly across this hurtling, screeching, nightmare of metal to reach either the centre of side of the road.

#In Search of..Airports and Cairo

Egypt, Cairo traffic

Stunned silence enveloped the bus as we watched these kamikaze pedestrians risking life and limb to cross the road. Sensing the quiet the tour official popped up out of his seat and said, in his high pitched giggle, “Not to worry, they’re made of rubber, just bounce if they hit the cars.” I’m not quite sure what was more astounding, that people ran across the road as they did or that this person seriously thought we would believe people bounced off them if  hit. Well, they do bounce but it’s not very good for them when they land. The honking of horns filled the air as we made our way to the hotel.

#In Search of..Airports and Cairo

Tourist entrance Cairo Marriott Hotel

What an incredible transformation. We were staying at the Marriott. I know I felt awkwardly under dressed for the reception. Opulence greeted us everywhere we turned. I simply wanted to find my room, bathe and change into something more respectable. Somehow jeans and joggers didn’t seem quite right amidst the gilt and grandeur.  For the first time the group was spread all over the hotel. I was in the far wing, far enough away to need a map to get back to reception, and of course, I got lost in the labyrinth of the hotel. Thank heavens for bell boys.

#In Search of...Airports and Cairo

Cairo Marriott Hotel and Casino

Mel and I had decided to buy water for our trip and so had arranged to meet in reception after we had time to get our luggage into our rooms and felt a little more respectable. Perhaps it was due to the fact that my room was in the far wing, but it took an age to get my luggage up to my room. In fact I was waiting so long I had time for a coffee and Mel called to find out if I had a problem – Um mm yes, my luggage hasn’t arrived.

Buying water at the hotel was exorbitant, plus they only sold small bottles. We wanted to stockpile sufficient to take us through our Egyptian sojourn. The instructions to reach a shop, outside he precincts of the hotel, were simple. We needed to go down through the rear of the hotel to the “tradesman’s entrance”, then cross the road and turn left, and the shop is on the corner. Simple! Yes?….. No!

Uniformed bellboys, ushers and waiters were delightfully helpful. We found the rear entrance, or should it be exit, with no problems. Then we took a good look at the road. Three marked lanes and six, seven lines of hurtling metal, all heading past us. We noticed, just one of those strange things which happen at these times, that there was not a single vehicle which had even one panel without a multitude of dints in it. I have never seen a more motley collection of vehicles which looked as if they should be heading for the wreckers, and ‘they’ apparently thought pedestrian were made of rubber!

#In Search of...Airports and Cairo

image from http://www.theguardian.com                  Running the Gauntlet

Taking our courage in both hands and a large serving of insanity, we charged across the street during a slight lull (a one car space) and reached the far side. The shopkeepers and their customers came out and looked, some clapped and the car drivers all honked their horns, and waived at the two crazy western women. Laughing we looked round for the shop. No, it’s not here. Wait a minute, right across from where we were standing, back where we had just come from, was a little shop with a sign out front indicating water was sold there. It seems our guardian angels were looking out for us.

#In Search of...Airports and Cairo

image from http://www.non-competes.comWater! The ice would have been nice.

It appeared the road we needed to cross was the driveway to the hotel, on the same side of the street. They really didn’t want us buying water outside the hotel. We looked at each other and then at the once more speeding traffic.  Suddenly, one of the other pedestrians strode out into the maelstrom of speeding madness and held his hand in the air. The universal signal to STOP! We cringed, waiting to see the inevitable happen, or if he would ‘bounce’. With a screech of many brakes the traffic stopped, every single car stopped without hitting anything. We hurriedly crossed to road to the sound of good natured calls and waves. Waving back we reached safety back where we started five minutes earlier.

#In Search of...Airports and Cairo

image from caieg_phototour149 Promenade, Cairo Marriott Hotel

Buying our water supplies we headed back to the hotel. We decided a cup of coffee and a short respite was in order before we explored a little. We were served coffee in beautiful gold embossed china cups and a Turkish delight that melted in your mouth. Life was wonderful and a short while later, refreshed and glad to be alive we set out to explore the hotel.

Blessings, Susan x

Next Week  – Sandstorms, Light Shows, Poverty and Riches.

© Susan Jamieson 2014

In Search of….Part 14

In Search of…Part 13

In Search of…Part 12

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In Searcdh of...Jerusalem

image from www-josephinewall-co.uk

It’s taken a while but I’d like to explain why I use this image for each of my entries “In Search of”, The simple reason is that the title of the work is “Spirit Elements” and it seems fitting for my story. I hope you like it a much as I do.

Once on the coach at the Dead Sea Hotel we traveled through the Hebron Valley towards Bethlehem. After many calls and ‘agreements’ our guide had been given the all clear for those of us who wished to go into Bethlehem, to do so. It was explained to us that it would be our own decision and no responsibility would be held by the tour operators. Since Bethlehem was inside the West Bank, a Tour Guide from inside there had been arranged and he would look after us whilst we were there. There was still a set protocol to be followed to visit Bethlehem. At the time it seemed slightly odd, from the perspective of hindsight it was a trifle more ominous.

The tour bus driver was allowed to drive up to the West Bank access point, whilst the tour guide had to exit the bus a couple of blocks before the checkpoint.  The driver had been given instructions that he was not allowed to leave the bus under any circumstances, although we were not totally aware of the magnitude of that little statement.

Arriving at the checkpoint I noticed the high concrete wall around three sides of the ‘square’ and the shapes of armed soldiers along the top of the wall, all carrying machine guns! An ominous start. The access area looked, for all the world like a cattle grid, or the gates at the entrance to the Brisbane Exhibition grounds. Once off the bus the driver left immediately, and we were on our own. We moved towards our  entrance. There were swarthy looking characters watching our every move. It was increasingly tense as our every move was carefully watched.

At the other side we were met by the West Bank tour guide, Ibrahim. We later found out that the real tour guide was Ibrahim’s son, but since the recent conflict, the tourism trade had been badly affected and he had therefore decided to take the tour himself.  After the time we had spent in Israel it felt like a different world completely. The buildings were, for the most part, covered in steel grills and the windows or glass in the doors was papered over also.  Everything seemed dustier, the people less cheerful and much more aware of our presence. We were escorted to a restaurant for lunch and had little option but to order something. We were not leaving until we had eaten! We saw Hezekiah’s tunnel, the Church of the Nativity and spent some time being closely scrutinised in a large square in front of an official looking building.

The ‘tour guide’ seemed to disappear into the surroundings as we reached the square and we were left milling around wondering when he was coming back.  Finally, he strode into our midst from within a group of soldiers. We were hustled up the street quickly. The very unfriendly looks made for a tense atmosphere. At one of the unremarkable doorways we were ushered inside. It was a souvenir shop which appeared to sell religious knick knacks of a huge number. The women in the store had coffee, sweets and savouries which they pressed on us at every opportunity at no cost. We had been told that as soon as we were ready to leave we should ask the tour guide to radio ahead for the bus to be at the check point to pick us up. The driver was allowed ten minutes to be at the exit and collect us so timing was critical. However, despite being asked by more than half the group our tour guide was in no hurry to allow us to leave, in fact the door had been locked and bolted – for our protection! It soon became apparent that unless everyone bought something from the shop – which he owned – we weren’t going to leave any time soon.

After a hurried discussion we all bought a small trinket and the guide called for the Israeli bus. We made our way back to the gates under the watchful gaze of the locals and a soldier or two. I am rarely uncomfortable when out and about but it was with a very odd sensation between my shoulders that I made my way through the exit. The Israeli bus was a very welcome sight. We drove several blocks away and collected our Israeli guide, which is when we finally learned of the tension surrounding our visit to Bethlehem. If we had known I doubt that as many people would have gone.

From Bethlehem we drove to Jerusalem. It was such a strange transition, driving through lush countryside after the drab and desolate surroundings inside the West Bank. I am not making any criticism of the area, either the people of the place, yet I can say with all honesty that the only time on my trip I felt at all uncomfortable was whilst I was inside the West Bank.  The air of “something about to happen” was very real.

Jerusalem was yet again a completely diverse mix of modern and ‘ancient’. We saw the Garden of Gethsemane and the Mount of Olives. Nothing was as I expected, probably from too many movies. We, that is Mel and I, had an exciting trip to Ben Yehuda mall to find a new suitcase for me. Pulling an empty suitcase over a paved or cobbled area was hilarious. We were so hungry we stopped for Schwarma in the mall. The looks we got were priceless and watching the flow of people as we sat there was enough to write fill a novel. We managed to find a nifty little store that was crammed with everything imaginable and I bought a few laugh a minute items for my children when I got home.

On the way to the hotel   we stopped at a little coffee shop. They were really nice letting me drag this large suitcase inside with us. We had the most delicious chocolate mousse filled with hot syrupy chocolate. It was so delicious I could have scrapped the plate clean!

The next day we set off for a tour of the old city. We walked from the Western Gate to the many churches and the ‘birthplace of Christ’. There was so much to see and not enough time. We stopped for a while at the Wailing Wall and walked the length of the Via Dolorosa, the “Way of the Cross”.  Stopping at a sidewalk café for drinks and something to eat seemed surreal and at the same time so ‘every day’ that I wondered if I was just an observer in a strange land.

After an exhausting day we went back to the hotel and, being the first two in the business centre, Mel and I hit the computers to write home and keep a running diary of events.

The next day was spent exploring further and a haunting visit to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial. It was impossible not to be moved by the enormity of all we saw.  Mere words and photos cannot really do our time in Jerusalem justice. It could easily fill a small book.

The next morning we packed up and the bus headed for the airport at Tel Aviv, the Ben Gurion airport for the next leg of our tour in Egypt. But first we had to get through customs!

All around us was so much history, it was impossible not to try to capture as much as possible so we could have our memories with us later.

It was a beautiful and challenging visit. The two sides to the same coin, but the differences were so great. After the tense and uncomfortable trip to Bethlehem, it was difficult not to make judgement calls….. rightly or wrongly, we were all glad we were in Israel. I felt I had been protected, and I also felt that ‘we all’ would be safe. It was good to have an angel on my shoulder.

I hope you have enjoyed this…. previous chapters are located throughout the archives. Please use “In Search of..Part “..” and you can catch up if you need to.

Next Week –  Airports and Cairo

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Revelations

image from www-josephinewall-co.uk

“…When a choice will make a real difference in our lives—obvious or not—and when we are living in tune with the Spirit and seeking his guidance, we can be sure we will receive the guidance we need to attain our goal.”
― Dallin H. Oaks

My trip through history really begins……

From Acre we took a leisurely drive overlooking the Galilee and Jezreel valleys, but were unable to go up to the Golan Heights was it still considered a ‘delicate’ area. We stopped for the night at the Kibbutz Ginnosar where the Sea of Galilee Boat or Jesus Boat was discovered in 1986.  Due to its preservation in the mud it is still able to be seen how and what the boat was made from, but the effects of exposure to the open air is now causing problems.  The next morning we were able to ride on a similar boat on the Sea of Galilee.  The cool air as we sailed along was really pleasant as the day began to heat up.

From there we drove to the Church of the Beatitudes.  Amazing frescoes in the church and sights from the mountain across the Sea of Galilee to Jordan on the far side gave one a feeling of what life must be like on a daily basis. On one side the peaceful sounds of the church service and the smell of incense and on the other, so near to an ancient enemy. It was almost too much for the mind to take in. Leaving there we drove to Nazareth where Jesus spent his childhood and after a couple of hours walking round with our guide, we left.

Traveling back towards the ‘border’ we drove down to the Dead Sea. It was surreal seeing the Palestinian villages on one side of the road and the Jewish settlements on the other. There were even occasions where there was a Jewish and Palestinian village side by side.  It was impossible to miss the high wire fences around the Jewish settlements.  It seemed sad that they could work side by side and yet need to be barricaded inside an enclosure at night to be safe. By day, they were almost neighbours, but by night enemies once more. The electric fences were the only thing keeping the Israeli farmers safe.  The voices of the past echoed around me.

Following the Dead Sea, we drove to Masada. It was an incredible landscape of dry and desolate land. Masada was an ancient fortification in the Southern District of Israel, situated on top of an isolated rock plateau (akin to a mesa) on the eastern edge of the Judaean Desert, overlooking the Dead Sea. The Siege of Masada by troops of the Roman Empire ended in the deaths of the 960 Jewish men and their families hiding there. (This is my understanding: “Since suicide is a sin a secret lottery was taken by the men. Everyone was killed the night before the Romans intended to overrun the settlement. The unlucky lottery ‘winner’ killed everyone before committing  suicide. In this way only one person would have broken the commandment “Thou Shalt Not Kill”, and committed the sin of suicide.”)

There were a couple of buildings under excavation too. Walking around the mesa was an eerie feeling. History spoke from every corner. As I walked around there was the sound of ancient footsteps and quiet voices. Spirit was crossing the ages for me.

The ‘strange’ part of the story begins here. After the Romans entered the settlement late in the day and found the dead bodies, the Commander ordered that the bodies be thrown off the plateau the following morning. However, the next morning not a single body could be found, neither in the settlement nor around the base of the plateau. They had simply – disappeared.

After a leisurely ride down in the cable car, we drove to our hotel at the Dead Sea. As we gathered to collect our suitcases prior to check in, I found my case had met with an accident. The wheels had been ripped out of the bottom of the case. How? I have no idea, but the idea of struggling with my case for the rest of my holiday made me shudder. A nice letter from the hotel manager, which later proved to be useless, was filed away with my paperwork.

Booked in, we all changed into our swimmers (old ones) and a shirt, to troop down to the Dead Sea. Suitably lathered in sunscreen with the warnings that:- we could spend no more than 5 – 10 minutes in the water and MUST shower at the beach before returning to the hotel.  Oh, and of course, there is the oft repeated statement, ”Everyone can float in the Dead Sea” or “No-one can drown in the Dead Sea”.

Down we go, in two’s and three’s we wander along the walkway into the Dead Sea. Like the petals of a flower slowly opening, people float off around the end of the walkway, a colourful explosion of laughing people. Of course being a chicken considerate person I held the cameras so Mel could go in first.  She thought it was great, just floating along without effort was a dream.  Then it was my turn.  All I have to do is walk out and let my feet float up in front of me as I lean back slightly. No trouble at all, just so easy, nothing could go wrong. Wrong! Oh damn! I leaned back a little and my feet started to come off the bottom. A surge of adrenalin hit me and I tried to stand back up.

Oh No – No Way was that going to happen. My feet kept rising, my arms were windmilling and very unladylike squeaks were coming from my mouth. As my arms windmilled and I squeaked, the obvious happened.  The one thing they really, strongly advised us against. DO NOT GET WATER IN YOUR EYES OR MOUTH.  They could have also added nose, but I presume they thought everyone would have got the message. Well, I did get the message, but, try flailing madly with your arms and stopping water from getting in your eyes, nose, mouth and ears. Someone finally realised I wasn’t playing around and grabbed my arm and I found my footing. Of course once found, I made an immediate exit from the Dead Sea.

My eyes, nose and throat burned like the dickens. A bottle of water later and all I could taste was salt. By this time Mel arrived so we both made a dash for the beach showers.  After ten minutes we gave in and made our way quickly to our rooms. Showered, shampooed and a bottle of moisturiser later I called her room and went over. I had run out of eye drops and was still feeling salty. We agreed; we felt as if we had been pickled in brine. We spent a small fortune on soaps and lotions and still our skin peeled off. I dread to think what it did to my stomach.

Cases packed, and in my case, manhandled by the porter, we climbed back on board the bus for Jerusalem. We had one stop to make…. to Bethlehem in the West Bank.

Ciao,  Susan x

Next week –  Jerusalem

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A Step Back in Time

image from www-josephinewall-co.uk   Spirit Elements

“If you learn to really sit with loneliness and embrace it for the gift that it is…an opportunity to get to know YOU, to learn how strong you really are, to depend on no one but YOU for your happiness…you will realize that a little loneliness goes a LONG way in creating a richer, deeper, more vibrant and colorful YOU.”
Mandy Hale, The Single Woman: Life, Love, and a Dash of Sass

I had really enjoyed my wandering around Tel Aviv. After 12 days I was still awed by the flow of life which seemed a constant all day long. The Boulevard seemed like a true social gathering place. The coffee shops, restaurants and ice cream parlors were fabulous and the beach side bars had an ambiance all their own. I found myself relaxing and as I continued my walks along the Boulevard I also noticed I was breathing easier, the tension was finally leaving my body. It was so strange but so good at the same time. I couldn’t remember when I had last felt this lessening of tension. How long had I been carrying that around?

However, I wasn’t going to wander around for my entire stay in Israel. I had decided to go on a three week tour, 9 days in Israel, 7 in Egypt and 5 days in Jordan. It was a historical tour, but not a religious tour, which was exciting.  On day 13 of my stay the people who were going on the tour with me arrived in the hotel, and I was pleasantly surprised to find another Australian amongst the group. M was a vivacious young girl, the same age as my daughter, and we hit it off from the outset. The rest of the group comprised mainly Americans with a couple of Canadians, two people from Brazil and an English couple just married. It promised to be a great trip.

Early the next morning we set off and the first ‘adventure’ a walk around the old port city of JAFFA! It was so different from my solitary wanderings as we heard the history of the site. We had been blessed with a tour guide who had studied archaeology and so the history became a living breathing excursion. If I went over all the history of each place I’d need a novel, so I scribbled when I could and took pictures instead. Standing at the top of the hill and looking out   over the ocean or looking towards Tel Aviv there was a feeling of freedom. I was fulfilling a dream, a dream both Mum and I had shared for years, and I was learning more about myself each day.

As we walked around Jaffa, it was astonishing to see the additions of rooms to the outside of buildings as they ran out of room to expand, and the giant hanging orange tree. My notes said,” The Hovering Orange Tree, in the centre of Old Jaffa is supposed to be a symbol of Israel’s prosperity, and some see in it a metaphor for the Jewish people, hanging between heaven and earth with their sufferings.”  Hundreds of years old it made me feel as though the people of yesteryear were walking past me to water the tree.

Irrespective of what the travel brochure said, it’s an incredible sight to see. We saw the miniature city of Tel Aviv and walked along Ben Gurion Boulevard, through the Hacarmel markets and got to soak up the atmosphere of Tel Aviv. The markets were an incredible experience. Crowded like nothing I’ve seen before there were stalls offering so many different things it was difficult to take it all in. There were the traditional type of craft stalls, beautiful clothes, so much colour it hurt the eyes, and food, so many smells to tempt the hungry, but we had a special dinner arranged so we had to get back to the hotel. It felt as though we had wandered into another world and when we left we walked out into this world.

The next day we left by bus and traveled up the coast up to Haifa and then on to Caesarea.  Walking through the ruins and listening to the multifaceted history of life from the Byzantine era through the Roman era to present day was mind blowing. I should add I adore history and this was history made live before my eyes. Yes, I was excited.  It was believed built on the ruins of “Straton’s Tower’, captured by Jannaeus in 90BCE until taken over by the Romans in 63BCE. Herod the Great renames it Caesarea in honour of the Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus. He built a deep sea harbour, markets, and held gladiator games in the theatre. Caesarea also flourished during the Byzantine pe

The area became a serious farming area until the Crusader conquest in the 11th century. The farms were buried under the sands shifting along the shores of the Mediterranean. The Mosque on the site was converted into the church of St. Peter in the Crusader times. From then it had a chequered past, seeing the area inhabited by various people until the Israelis took control during the 1948 conflict.  I felt as though I was travelling away from all the problems I had back in Australia and I was being whisked away back in time. Despite the throngs of people there were occasions I was alone and then there were chills at times, as I felt someone from a bygone age brush past me.

From here we went to Acre or Akko as the Israeli now call it, at the northern end of Haifa Bay. It has a historical lineage like Caesarea. It has been inhabited by the Greeks, Jews and Romans. We traveled in our explorations from the Byzantine era, Persian¸ 1st Crusades, to Saladin then the 3rd Crusades (Richard 1st of England), to the Mamluks, Ottomans and eventually the British. It was during the British Mandate that Acre’s fort was converted into a jail where the early Jewish underground fighters were imprisoned and shot. In May 1947 the Irgun broke into the jail, freeing the other activists and around 200 Arab prisoners. In May 1948 the Israeli’s captured Acre and it has remained in Israeli hands ever since.  Parts of the jail are still in use although it is possible to see those areas which are no longer used.

As we walked around, seeing the layers of history as we went through the ruins and up to the level the jail was at the top was a strange experience. It felt, at times, as though there were crowds of people whispering behind you, all in different languages. There was a real sense of impending doom and death in certain places.  My skin would suddenly ripple with gooseflesh, I would almost hear the sound of screams, and once I felt the definite pressure of a hand on my shoulder.

It seemed that as my cares back in Australia fell away and my mind was freed from thinking about them, I was open to hear and feel more of the spiritual experiences I had begun to feel I’d lost, when Mum had passed away. In a strange way, it also felt as though the years were dropping away too, and I became more carefree and light hearted. This was what I needed. I was finally beginning to find myself.

“When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy.”
― Rumi

Blessings, Susan x

Next week – More Revelations

© Susan Jamieson 2013

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A Blend of New Worlds

image from spirit_elements-www-josephinewall-co.uk

Apart from my trip from England to Australia, which I admit is quite a trip, I hadn’t traveled overseas much. I had been to Tasmania, which is considered part of Australia, just not attached to it, and to Fiji, which was my one overseas trip.  This however, was my one REAL overseas trip since I was doing it alone. So, everything I saw and experienced was with the eyes of a novice. It was fresh and unknown.

As my driver pulled up to the Sheraton (Yes, I really went all out on my first big trip), one doorman rushed over to get my door and another went around to get my bags. Luxury was the name of the game. I didn’t want to stand and gawk but I tried to look everywhere at once, I wanted to savour the idyllic splendour of this incredible place….. until a loud voice in my head yelled “Get it together girl! You don’t want to look like a country yokel, wet behind the ears, a little more aplomb please!”

A New World

image from http://www.colourbox.com“Never been anywhere before”.

Alright, I was back on track and my image not too tarnished. I signed in and was taken up to my luxurious room. I had traveled in Australia and seen my fair share of hotels and motels, but this was something else. A huge king sized suite – just for me. For the first time ever, I had this huge bedroom for my own personal use. No-one coming to me for anything, no-one to share it with, it was just for me. It was totally surreal.

A New World

Room to move and then some

I started to unpack but the lure of the sunshine through the window, and wondering what was there drew me, so I threw on a pair of joggers and decided to go for a quick walk. I was never one to ask for directions, I always managed to get lost anyway, so deciding to throw caution to the winds I took my rough bearings, crossed the driveway and away I went. The traffic! I couldn’t believe how much traffic came flying down the road. Everyone jaywalks in Australia- at least we used to.  Taking a long look and gauging the traffic, how fast it was flowing, I dashed across the road.

The esplanade was amazing. It was so wide and the paving in geometric designs as far as I could see. It seemed as though there were seats arranged in nooks and booths everywhere and people were sitting, talking, reading or walking, jogging, running, cycling along, on roller blades or skate boards. It was a hive of activity and at the same time an oasis of calm. The sand was a refined golden carpet and the ocean, the Mediterranean, was the most amazing blue imaginable.

A New World

Tel Aviv Boulevard       This open air exercise area was used nearly the entire day and night.

Mesmerised I didn’t get too far that afternoon. The beach seemed to stretch for ever and the different architecture, from the ultra-modern to ancient almost next to each other. It was a glimpse of the Old world and new side by side. In the distance I could see the old town of Jaffa. It was to be my destination the following morning.  Retracing my steps I once again took my life in my hands as I charged across the street to get back to the hotel. I decided if I was to stay in Israel for any length of time I had to work out how to cross the roads, or at least where to cross them.

For someone who was not a great breakfast eater, the temptation to go into the dining room and simply watch the world go by was too enticing. Once in there I had to have a look around and with freshly squeezed orange juice in hand I could hardly leave without trying a few dishes, could I? I cannot remember the names of the dishes I decided to try, but, a tasty tomato, cucumber and parsley salad with a tuna, mayo and onion dish and I felt my batteries charged. So, fortified with some traditional Israeli breakfast I set out.

A New World

Breakfast salad, a new idea

I rounded the corner from the hotel and, not dashing across the road walked along the footpath towards where I could see a crossing. Five minutes later I found myself surrounded by six giant, well-armed American soldiers. The funny side of the situation hit me and I started to smile, then giggle and I was not making the soldiers any happier. After all, I was a mere 5’7″ and these fellows were all giants, at least 7’ tall, or so they appeared to me.

Demanding to know what I was doing did not help. I really tried to explain I was just walking up to the crossing, but it appeared I was committing some serious crime, and I couldn’t work out what it was. The tension mounted and I simply could not stop the chuckles. Eventually someone asked me where I was from. Once I said Australia I heard a grumbled “Bloody Aussies” and there was an immediate release of tension. Apparently I had transgressed onto the US Embassy grounds. Apart from three foot high bollards there was nothing to say I had moved onto a prohibited area. One of the giants pointed a finger skyward so I craned my neck and saw a US flag on the top of the building. With a stern warning to “watch where I was going” I was allowed to leave, still holding in the chuckles until I made my escape.

That morning was the first time I walked from my hotel into the old town of Jaffa. There was a great view from the top of the area around the marina and along the boulevard to the high rise buildings along the foreshore. After breakfast and around midnight each day I would make this walk to Jaffa, listening to my iPod and watching the whirlpool of people passing by. There was a constant flow of people, walking, running, on roller skates, skate boards or little scooters. People walked their dogs and groups of people would be sitting and chatting until the early hours of the morning.

I’m not certain what the hotel staff made of my nocturnal jaunts but I received a smile each time I returned. I still wasn’t sleeping very well or for very long but these nightly walks were soothing. During the day I explored the city. Being geographically challenged (I got lost easily) I saw a few areas more than once, but it was fun, almost as much as my first excursion to a shopping centre.

My map was great, my sense of direction not so good and my Hebrew non-existent, so the fact that I found the shopping centre was amazing. As I walked towards the doors I was surprised when a man, not much taller than I, suddenly popped out of the corner of the entrance,  dressed all in black and carrying – a machine gun. (I’m no expert so I’m not guessing and he didn’t tell me exactly what it was). At that time all people not recognised by the guard were stopped and had their bags checked. Okay, it wasn’t that long since the Gaza problems so I could understand it, but it did make me stop and think. Since my natural reaction would have been to resist someone grabbing at me it could have been a different outcome. It appears I had my guardian angel sitting on my shoulder each time I ran into an armed and dangerous person. It was good to know.

A  New World

image from http://www.reuters.com     Israeli soldiers, a fact of life.

This strange new world still felt like home and I was excited about exploring more of it.

Next week…….. History comes alive and a new friend.

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Learning How to Breathe Again

image from spirit_elements-www-josephinewall-co.uk

“I thought about having a proper room, breathing life into it, and nobody minding.”
― Jenny Valentine, Broken Soup

Arriving at the airport in Athens to catch the El Al plane to Israel was the beginning of something totally unexpected. The entire place was bustling despite the early hour. Needless to say the El Al departure gate was at the furthest end of the airport. Arriving in Athens I had realised I had over packed, but by then it was too late to do anything about it. After hauling my cases (2) to the El Al checkpoint I was unconcerned when I was shepherded to the side to have my luggage checked. After all, I had nothing to be concerned about. Had I?

Enter one of the most handsome men I had seen in a long time. Pointing at my large suitcase he indicated I should place it on the waist high bench and open it. OK, everything was tied down really well so as soon as I unclipped the straps the clothes jumped up another eight inches – at least. Not content with that embarrassment I was then amazed to see him painstakingly go through everything in my case, and then the second case. I mean EVERYTHING – bras, pants, the lot! By the time he had finished inspecting them there was this mangled mess of clothing and toiletries on the lids of the suitcases. Smiling beguilingly he told me I could repack my bags and join the queue to get a boarding pass.

Learning to Breathe

image from http://www.live4.com.au         Too much of a good thing is still too much!

Time – I couldn’t forget the time. It was running through my mind over and over with the idea that I might miss my connection. I knew I shouldn’t have packed so much! So when I finally got to weighing my bag I breathed a sigh of relief. A sigh which was very short lived. Over weight! On Singapore it was only two kilos over which they waived. On El Al the weight permitted was much less and I was eight kilos over! OMG. Take the bag back and haul ass to the counter to pay for the excess baggage. Of course the counter was two thirds of the way back up the concourse, a very long concourse, and I had to take my luggage with me.

Thank heavens for a very helpful Greek airport staff guy. He hauled the big case and I grabbed the second and off we trotted. The trot became a gallop as we tried to get to the counter. Of course they wanted cash which I didn’t have as I was leaving. Finally they put it through on my Visa, mainly thanks to my Greek friend and we began the mad dash back to the El Al departure point. After a very frosty look from the lady behind the El Al counter I escaped towards the departure lounge. The fun was just beginning though.

Boarding a plane is fairly standard, right? There’s the squeezing between the seats and trying to get your luggage in the overhead racks, getting into your seat and settling down. This was completely different and people were going every which way, apparently without any rhyme or reason. Seats seemed to be taken as they wished and it felt as though chaos ruled the day. Amazingly, all the seats were filled and the plane left on time.

However! As soon as the plan set off down the runway seat belts started popping open and by the time we were airborne most of the passengers were wandering all over the place, talking, from one side of the plane to the other and from back to the front, and all in Hebrew. The odd one out wasn’t even close. I huddled down and tried to remain inconspicuous. Not very likely but there you have it. I did receive some rather odd looks which I interpreted as “what on earth are you doing here”?

The trip from Athens to Tel Aviv was just over an hour long and the passengers milled around the plane for the entire trip. I’m not even sure if they sat down for the landing, and the disembarkation felt like a free for all to get off first.

Learning to Breathe

image from http://www.itnews.com.au                 Why are you here?     

Arriving at the passport check in was reasonably straight forward; just follow the queue, yet not quite. The Israelis walked through their gate at a fast pace whilst I joined a much smaller queue. I handed over my passport and then had my first ever taste of being on the receiving end of an interrogation. Why was I coming to Israel? Why was I alone? Was I meeting someone? Did I know anyone here? Had I come to find a husband? A husband?! I had just managed to divest myself of the last mistake so I most definitely wasn’t looking for another. After I explained that I was divorced she relaxed, until she asked me for my maiden name since I didn’t have my husband’s surname.

Oh! Well. Hmm. I had changed my name by deed poll after my divorce and chosen a name I liked, so I couldn’t give her my maiden name as a reference either. That didn’t go over very well so we went through all the previous questions again. It was obvious she didn’t like me and didn’t believe I wasn’t there to snare some poor unwary Israeli guy for my next husband.  Eventually, as the last person in the checkpoint left and I was there alone, one of the other men came around to see what all the fuss was about. I don’t speak Hebrew but the rapid fire statements from her gave me the feeling she would have loved to send me back. Thankfully he must have out ranked her and I tiredly walked through the checkpoint to get my luggage. I was the last person in the airport and my greeter had vanished.

Learning to Breathe

image from jewishcentralvoice.com                       Tel Aviv

After many phone calls and what felt like a long wait but was probably only a half an hour I was met by a nice guy who shepherded me to his vehicle and we set off for the hotel. I was thrilled to have a running commentary of all the sights and history as we traveled into Tel Aviv.

The strangest part of all, despite the language barrier and the quasi interrogation at the airport, there was a real feeling of coming home. I took my first deep breath in a long time and realised I had started to feel relaxed. It really felt quite strange.

Next week – A blend of new worlds

© Susan Jamieson 2013

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