I saw and felt and tasted many things. However, as I finally down to describe my journey, I am still so outrageously hurt by the events of this week that I decided to break my original lengthy post into two shorter ones. I ate many things. I will talk about those later. For now... The Feels.
No matter your political affiliations or preferences, it's hard to argue about the pure majesty of standing next to structures which are several thousand years old. From new cities, recently built in the last 65 years of the country's founding, to ancient foundations still fought over today, to mountain hilltops that have seen many battles and exchanges in its 2000 year history. I felt things that spoke to my Jewish faith and moved me in incredible ways. But I also saw and felt things that spoke to my humanity, and moved me in ways that I still can't find words for. I stood in places which have housed Jews, Christians, Muslims, and politicians. The peace that can be found by just feeling how absolutely human we all are? More powerful than anything Jewish I experienced (and that was intense).
The trip started with hikes. Sometimes three hikes in a day. All at least an hour in length - some nearing 4 hours. As a runner, not a hiker, this was more challenging for me than I anticipated. I forgot to drink water. My spirit wasn't strong enough. I was almost always one of the last hikers because of my insistence on stopping to take photos of the nature. And that was just Day One. By Day Two, I actually enjoyed everything. I appreciated more that the activity made me hungry. I took fewer and fewer pictures, instead focusing on the spirit of the experience.
Every place we walked had history. A jail built during British colonization and has been abandoned since the country was founded. An ancient aqauduct. Structures we couldn't walk under because they were so old an unstable. Grounds littered with the post-war remains of both Israeli and Syrian military bunkers. A desert full of a surprising amount of life. A group of nomads maintaining the same lifestyle for many, many centuries. A buried city. A wall with notes. A memorial. A group of soldiers. A new synagogue. An old synagogue.
Life has been in this area for millennia. Humans, animals, war. A delicate balance between the elements and each other. While it's at an extreme in this desert, it's still a balance in our urban paradise. The earth beneath our feet is just as old as the earth in Israel. Our conflict with nature is real, our resources limited. Our conflict with each other is fundamentally the same. The pain hurts the same woldwide, for when humanity suffers, we suffer as one. Not just the US standing with Boston (and we do). But when I heard the statements of support from our friends around the world, it was real. The events of this week were all the more painful to me when nationality is removed. It thoroughly could not matter less to me where these people are from. They were humans. Who wanted to bring pain and suffering and death to other humans. And there is nothing more painful and raw and terrifying than the hate we can bring to each other.
That hate has not changed since the earliest days. If you believe the stories, the first and greatest act of hate was the story of Cain and Abel. Unfortunately, we haven't learned. Whether you believe we've been around for 5,000 years or 200,000 years - hate has been as present as love. There is terror in Israel - without saying who is right or wrong, the death and destruction by simply hating each other is real. But the love that always erupts afterwards is just as real. After an attack, whether it be in Israel or the US, we rise together. Like the Whos down in Whoville. We still sing songs and psalms of joy. We still eat and laugh at meals. We still run.
I ran when I was in Israel. After hiking non-stop the first five days then having a few days of rest, the first thing I wanted to do when we got to Tel Aviv was to run along the coast of the Mediterranean. I don't care which G-d you pray to - I felt G-d at the Wailing Wall as much as I felt G-d as I ran along the coast. And I've continued to hold that experience with each of my runs since then. I have been fueled - spiritually and physically - and I just try to remember that however hurtful humanity can be to itself, it is always more loving. Otherwise we would have hated ourselves out of existence thousands of years ago.
For now, I'll leave you with some Israeli graffiti: