Hello from the US again! I have returned victoriously, and have spent the past few days recovering from my trip. I can't tell if I have done a really poor job of fighting jetlag, or it it's harder this time around because it is 10 hours compared to my usual 8, or if it is because I'm getting old(er). Hopefully the first one.
The trip back was smooth, and I ended up taking an earlier flight back to SFO, so I got to spend the afternoon napping in a real bed as opposed to an airline lounge. The past few days have mostly been a blur of sleeping, seeing people, and dreading returning to work tomorrow. Just as I was getting used to vacationing, I am sent back to the grind! Oh, well.
I wondered, when I left, how I would remember the trip. I had all these plans for careful Biblical reflection and huge blog posts and spiritual revelations in Israel, and it didn't all happen like I had planned (mostly due to jetlag). We've reached the point where I can't remember what I did on what day, or the names of some of the sites I've been to (I couldn't for the life of me remember what Caesarea Phillipi was called yesterday), and everything sort of seems like a dream now. On that hand, I am very glad that I did spent all of the time blogging (yay!), but I needed to make a conscious effort while in Israel to stop taking photos and blogging and to start experiencing and enjoying. Did people have to remember to do that ten years ago, or is that a new phenomenon? I don't know.
But in reflection, there's definitely a few things I want to take note before my memories go completely fuzzy:
Favorite Site: That's tough. I think I'm going to go with the first day and the Sea of Galilee. The issue with some of the more famous sites is there is that tiny thought, in the back of the mind, that things aren't how they were for Jesus. We don't know if the Via Delorosa is actually the walk to the cross. Some of the ruins in Capernaum are from centuries after Jesus. But the Sea of Galilee is almost the same. The landscape may have changed slightly in the past two millennia, and the plants are nowhere near that old, but it's the same body of water, and the landscape might not be identical but is pretty close. I can now set the scene in my own head, which I appreciate. So yes, Sea of Galilee. I think Mount Carmel is a close second.
Favorite Day: Probably February 3rd, which is the day we got to explore around the Sea of Galilee. That being said, our walking tour of Jerusalem (I can't remember the exact date of that) was amazing as well.
Favorite Non-Traditional Site: As in, the one that most people probably don't get to see. I think it was Tel Dan, up by the Lebanese border. It was really pretty, and the ruins were particularly interesting.
Most Fun Site: Dead Sea. I liked floating like an egg. Maybe it isn't the most Biblical site, but it still was a lot of fun.
Least Favorite Site: Perhaps Meggido, because I'm still not sure why we went there. Yes, it was mentioned in the Bible, but so were other places we didn't get to visit, and it was around that point where I felt satisfied with the number of ruins we had seen. I didn't need to see more. I'd have preferred to see other sites, such as...
Biggest Regret: Why, oh why, couldn't we have stopped at the Jordan River for five minutes? It wasn't out the way; we crossed bridges over it around eight times. Would it have really thrown our schedule off so much if we had pulled over and stretched our legs around there? On the bright side, now I'm really glad I didn't wait to get baptized (for a while, I decided to hold out until the Jordan River, but then I realized that I wasn't sure I could justify that to God, so I got baptized in a swimming pool. Good thing I didn't wait, since we didn't stop).
Favorite Souvenir: Photos and experiences are nice, but I also got a little nativity scene made out of olive wood. That'll be nice, to bring out in thirty years and say that I got it in Jerusalem (remember, we couldn't stop in Bethlehem itself, so Jerusalem will do).
Favorite Memory: On a boat on the Sea of Galilee. Or maybe wading in the Sea of Galilee. Something to do with the Sea of Galilee.
Favorite Food: Pita and hummus. We had some really exceptional ones at the fish restaurant. For specific item, though, that pita bread were herbs and olive oil was delicious--I'm hoping to make some this week. On a slightly related note, I finally tried shawarma at the airport, and it was delicious but not what I expected--it tasted like curry, possibly due to turmeric. Not like the shawarma I have had here.
Overall Impressions: Go. You have to go. The thought that kept on coming back to me, while I was there, was shock that I knew so few people who had been over to Israel. People mentioned, which I was trying to find a friend to go with on the trip, that they didn't feel it was safe or it cost too much money. I never felt unsafe, and the money was definitely well spent. If you ever have the opportunity, GO. Trust me. It was the best trip I've ever taken.
Tomorrow, I'll post reflections of some of the actual logistics of the trip.