Visiting Israel | Part I

I spent a huge part of February in Israel--about 2 weeks in fact. The trip was incredible and impactful. SO impactful that I've been at a complete loss for words. Until now! I'll be sharing stories about my trip in several parts here on Simplicity Embellished, sorted out in no particular way. If anyone has questions, please leave a comment or leave a note on Facebook for me. Jerusalem. Visiting the city in February, just before recent terror outbreaks and bombings, put the city in a special light. It wasn't the middle of winter and it wasn't the dead of summer. The days I spent in the city were cool--it reminded me of 5k race mornings in suburban Cincinnati. The temperature of the air was familiar to my skin and the city was, somehow, familiar, too.

Jerusalem Doorway

My visit happened over a period of precipitation. Light rain showers washed the city in the afternoon giving everything a slick glisten. By evening, all was dry.

The city is built from Jerusalem stone. From the streets of the Old City, to the buildings within it--it is all hewn from this very distinctive type of limestone. It is such a stark contrast from our American cities built from brick and concrete. Being inside a world made from slightly shimmery stone in colors from pale yellow to sunny pinks to rich creams is very much what I thought heaven looked like as a child. Sort of shimmery and golden. Sort of what a city would look like if it was situated atop a cloud.

Walking through the city on foot required an awareness of my feet I just don't need back home in America. The city's Jerusalem Stone roads, slippery from the light rain, required one to look down every few steps to ensure maintaining an upright position. Well, at least us non-locals. Watching men dressed in black with matching black hats stroll by made it clear that we were all standing on American feet. Feet from a country less than 250 years old. And the locals walking by? They had Holy Land feet. Feet that only know a land inhabited for thousands of years. Late at night, tucked in bed in my hotel room in Jerusalem, I remember the way my feet felt. Not just the way they would feel after a full day of walking, but after a day of using your whole foot with every step. It's a good feeling. It's good to feel rooted to the place you are.

Jerusalem Gate

The Old City is home to the Western Wall or Wailing Wall as it's also called. It was built in 19 BCE by Herod the Great. When I made my way down to the wall; wearing jeans, a backpack, giant sunglasses and a red fleece--the outfit of an American tourist, I tucked the notes I brought from home into the cracks between the stones. Like so many had done before me. I stood there for a moment and looked up at the massive wall and pressed my hands to the cool Jerusalem Stone. I looked to either side and saw locals there beside me, deep in prayer. Despite my touristy-clothing on the outside, at that moment I recognized that I was just like them on the inside; the part that matters. Just another Jew at the wall. Just another person at the wall.

Western Wall

My stay in Jerusalem came at the middle of my stay in Israel. And by this point, I began to notice my sore shoulder compliments of my daypack. I still use this daypack almost every day now, I think mostly because I miss Israel and I carried that daypack everywhere with me while I was there. This little pack criss-crossed over one shoulder and housed my daily essentials.

  • A 16 oz. green Nalgene bottle I purchased in high school
  • A Kaweco Sport fountain pen & extra cartridges
  • 2 notebooks; a Moleskine and a small, handmade book with hand-painted birds on the cover
  • A bottle of ibuprofen, a bottle of Claritin and my rescue inhaler
  • A small digital camera
  • My iPhone
  • Tissues, lotion, perfume, bandaids
  • A small umbrella
  • Sunglasses
  • Money
  • Various items of food I snagged from the hotel

I began to notice the backpacks around me. And I paid attention to the things people pulled out of them; the things people chose to carry with them every day. I saw paperback books, jewelry, art supplies, small siddurs, teffilin, extra clothes, maps, nail polish, gum, candy, makeup and ipods. I noticed that these were backpacks from people who had come from all corners of the globe to Jerusalem. They came from different countries, spoke different languages and all had separate lives. Yet, we all basically carried the same things with us in our packs and had all somehow ended up in the same place at the same time.

So, back to feeling rooted. I think travel in many ways is all about roots. Maybe you travel to remind yourself of your roots wherever your home is. Maybe it's a way to avoid putting down roots. Maybe travel--a state of motion--is where you feel most rooted. Maybe it's what you do to find roots that generations past have laid for you. I think that's what Israel was for me. I went to a place I had never been only to discover the roots that were already there, waiting for me.