Israel

I started writing this on the flight from Addis to Tel Aviv, or while I was in Tel Aviv, its been so long I can’t remember. Anyway, I finished it and edited it several months ago, and then never got around to posting it. So, here is my post about my time in Israel, 11 months later.

Looking out at Haifa from the Universal House of Justice.

 

The lower terraces in Haifa.

The beach in Tel Aviv, where I wasted away a day sleeping.

Before I could fly,

I had to say goodbye.

It’s not always easy,

Because it often feels rather cheesy.

But at last, at long last I was taking a step towards home. I was headed to the airport. As we drove, my heart started to beat faster. I was really leaving, it was actually happening. Still in a mild state of denial and disbelief, I said my goodbyes and headed into the airport.

“You don’t have a ticket on this flight”

“What do you mean I don’t have a ticket on this flight?”

“It says here you are flying to Paris”

“No, I changed it to Tel Aviv”

“You want to go to Tel Aviv, ok we fly you to Tel Aviv”

I sign a document saying that I am going to Israel upon my own will.

“Sir, I don’t think you can get on the plane with this ticket”

And so it continued, frustratingly, until finally I boarded the plane. I was Tel Aviv bound.

Tel Aviv never goes to sleep.

Stepping out of the airport, lugging 130 pounds of luggage, I immediately knew I was lost, and was a little frightened. Eventually I found my way to the train, and took it into Tel Aviv. I then shared a Taxi with a woman to get the hostel that I was staying at. This was all at about 4:00 am.

Free wifi! Out of this world! So fast! So wireless! So free! On my ipod, on my mac without running windows, what bliss.

At first I was in complete shock. I had just gone from taking taxis that sparked wires together under the steering column as an ignition, to taxis from the future with gps maps, the ability to accelerate, and all kinds of gadgets. At 5:00 am I walked into my room, it was full of bunk beds and sleeping people, my first time in a hostel. I was lost and lonely. I laid down for a few minutes but couldn’t sleep.

After a while I headed to the beach, and didn’t come back it quite a while later. I wondered around, from beach to beach, dozing off on beach chairs, swimming, doing nothing. By the time I headed back to the hostel I was feeling much better, and getting over the shock, and enjoying the developedness (yes apparently I made that word up) of it all.

The beach...

It was Israeli Independence Day, and the air force was flying all their different planes across the sky. Even the Israeli airlines were doing flybys in close formation, escorted by fighter jets. The Navy had several boats out, all the shops were closed and everyone was on the beach. Men with long beards, and Jewish caps, danced around to Hebrew techno. It was an interesting day.

Behind me you can see the Jewish cemetery, and the temple mount (the golden dome).

The next morning I headed to Jerusalem by bus, leaving all of my luggage in a locker, except for my pack. The buses were all so nice! And they drove so fast! The hour seemed so short, it was so comfortable, it seemed like it didn’t even happen, there were no goats tied to the roof or chickens under the seats!

Arrived in Jerusalem and walked around, finally finding my way into the Old City on foot. Before I left Ethiopia I had ironed Canadian flags onto all of my bags, it paid off as I met up with some Canadians going in the same direction. I checked into a hostel in Jerusalem, and then went to find a tour.

Somewhere I had falafel for lunch, SO good!

The Jewish cemetery, it isn't cheap to get in here. When the third temple is built it is said that those in these graves will be resurrected.

I went on a tour to the Mount of Olives. It was fascinating, and the guide brought everything to life by retelling the stories from the bible. We went to various places such as the Church where Jesus is said to have ascended up to heaven, and the Church where Judah betrayed him.

This is where Jesus was betrayed by Judas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was a lot of walking. The next day I went on another tour, this time to the Holy sites within the old city. We went to the legendary Mount Zion and the Church where the last supper was held, saw the rock on which Jesus was said to have been laid after being crucified, the place where he was crucified, and of course the infamous Western wall and the temple mount. It was fascinating. It is an incredible city.

The temple mount!

The temple mount!

In the past I may have created an image of what heaven would look like in my mind. It would have soft white rock edges, everything would be a comfortable off white, clouds, very simple yet beautiful. The temple mount was it, it the image that I had conjured up as a child, it was my heaven. The ancient white rock flowed out in all directions, encompassing a space of massive proportions. Various rock archways and walls were scattered around; the mount of Olives, mount Zion, and Jerusalem surrounded it. Herod definitely knew what he was doing so many years ago when he built this gigantic mount out of a valley.

The western wall. Herod was quite the builder.

 

Towards the end of the day I headed to Haifa.

Overlooking Haifa.

Everything is so perfect.

Steps on the terraces.

This is the mansion at Bahji where Baha'u'llah lived the final days of his life.

The bottom of the terraces.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am reluctant to even attempt to describe my experiences in Haifa because there is simply no way I can do it justice. For those of you who are not aware the Baha’i World Center is situated in Haifa on Mount Carmel. There are also Baha’i holy sights in Akka, and nearby at Bahjji where Baha’u’llah lived the final days of his life. Beginning at the bottom of Mount Carmel the terraces reach a full kilometer up to the top of the mountain. It is the number one tourist attraction in Haifa. About half way up these terraces is the Shrine of the Bab. Nearby is the Arc, on which are situated the International teaching center, the Seat of the Universal House of Justice, and the building of the Study of the Texts. All of these places are surrounded by gardens of absolute beauty; however, it is the spiritual experience that is the best feeling in the entire world, to which nothing can compare. It is an incredibly powerful and transforming experience.

Looking up outside the UHJ.

Proof I was there! :p

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Akka, where Baha'u'llah was imprisoned.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bahji again.

This is in front of the Universal House of Justice.

Perhaps next time I go, which hopefully will be within the next two years, I will be able to find the words to provide a fleeting glimpse at the surface of a bottomless experience.

Bahji.