By Brooklyn Walters
If the streets of the Old City of Jerusalem could talk, they would tell the span of history. They would talk of journeying to the Temple to make sacrifices, of the hurt and triumphs of its people, of rumors of a Messiah, of the crucifixion of Jesus the Nazarene and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
During spring break, I journeyed to Jerusalem to hear its many tales and experience its immense beauty. I had expectations of what Israel would be, but my time there exceeded all my expectations.
Israel is diverse in what you can experience on its grounds. While some of our days were spent in desert climates, others were spent in the cool breeze around the Sea of Galilee and in the lush green fields surrounding Jerusalem. Day by day, we made our way across the country, experiencing Holy Sites and a culture that was new to me. Each day, I learned more about my faith, about the people there, about the language, about the history that occurred in the land, about how I could take all the lessons I was learning back to America with me.
I learned that Israel is a land of devotion. Everywhere, people are practicing their religion shamelessly and with great devotion. It was amazing to get to experience such an accepting climate and feel free to express my gratitude to the Lord in public. It made me want to come back to America bolder in my faith and shameless in my pursuit of God.
On a lighter note, I was also able to try the best foods! I thought I liked Mediterranean food before going, but I am simply obsessed now. I’ve brought back an affinity for some specific Israeli dishes that I have been scouring the internet for recipes for since we got back.
Needless to say, my trip was unforgettable. Since not everyone can or will make their own pilgrimage to the Holy Land, I will share some of the highlights of my trip, though it is impossible to share everything.
Some of my favorite sites
The highlight of the whole trip for me was going to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. My husband, our friend and I waited a couple hours to get into the tomb itself, but it was well worth it. Stepping in was like stepping out of reality. That is a moment I will take with me forever.
The rest of the Holy Sepulchre is also beautiful and holds many sites significant to Church tradition, including the site where Jesus was crucified, the place Adam’s skull was said to have been buried and the place where the Holy women stood during Jesus’s crucifixion.
The history within the walls of this stunning structure is incredible. I would recommend spending a whole day here, though we were only able to go for a few hours because of the way our tour was scheduled.
Another favorite of mine was the Church of the Annunciation. Although the Catholic Church of the Annunciation was gorgeous and contained what is said to have been Mary’s house, the Orthodox Church of the Annunciation contains the spring Mary is said to have been at whenever the Angel Gabriel visited her, and I found it to be even more encapsulating.
If you are into history and want to see some archaeological remains, I would highly recommend Masada, Magdala and the City of David. All these locations made the history buff in me excited. You can walk through remains that are over a thousand years old, and to me, there isn’t much that quite compares to the wonder of that, other than the churches around.
The Dead Sea was also a neat place to visit. It is the lowest point on earth, and you can’t help but float in the water because of the salt content. A lot of people on the tour with me cited this as their favorite place we went.
Some of my favorite foods
While most people on my tour didn’t like them, I fell in love with bourekas, an Israeli breakfast pastry. It is puff pastry with pizza sauce inside, topped with sesame seeds. I found it to be a nice, savory breakfast food, and I had it nearly every morning of the trip.
Hummus is a must! I’ve had hummus before, but none as good as what I had there.
Fish is another commodity that I would highly recommend while in Israel. All the fish I had was very fresh, especially the whole fish I had on the Sea of Galilee! Israeli tomato and cucumber salad seemed to be a simple staple at most meals I had there. It is one of the things I had on the trip that I’ve made since coming back to America. It’s quick and easy to make, and it is a great lunch side dish.
Some of my favorite things in general
I love the culture in Israel. Learning about the people there from being around them was an amazing experience. The people I encountered seemed friendly, welcoming and community-oriented. Additionally, I found that I love Aroma Café! It’s essentially like Starbucks is to America. One thing most Americans I’ve talked to about Israel have found peculiar is that if you order an iced coffee, they will give you a frozen coffee. If you want an American iced coffee, ask for a cold coffee instead (though I would recommend getting an Israeli iced coffee instead).
Overall, being surrounded by history was something I found to be exhilarating. I never knew what I would see when I would look out the window of the tour bus, and that created a lot of fun anticipation for me. Knowing that some of the places we went were older than anything manmade that I’ve ever seen was a great experience.
I would absolutely recommend a trip to Israel for anyone. Whether you go for religious reasons, to see the history there, for the food or just to have a fun vacation, I truly think there is something for everyone.