We sat in our lovely apartment cooling off and winding down after a long hot walk down to the Western Wall where we had joined with other faithful ones clad in white. We had all come before our Father during this Yom Kippur to pull back the curtain of our hearts to ask Him to show us the places that needed His merciful cleansing.
I was a bit surprised to hear shouting and songs of joy flowing over the screen separating us from the men’s side as we girls, my sisters-in-law Julia, Zelta and I, sat on the much quieter women’s side. Along with that, sounds of singing and marching punctuated our quiet prayers as occasional groups of men ascended their way up the ramp to the Temple Mount.
It was such a contrast, the joy and shouting with the reverent quiet. It seemed an appropriate way to begin our time in Israel, the ultimate land of contrasts.
Our apartment, as it turns out, was very close to the action. Soon after Yom Kippur ended, sukkahs began appearing on balconies and terraces everywhere. From the first night of Sukkot, from within each, could be heard the sounds of partying, singing and pounding on tables to the rhythm of every song, the rattling of silverware and dishes were as tambourines and cymbals. We’d now slid from songs of joyful reverence through the veil into songs of joyful celebration and freedom!
This was the second time we’d been able to spend Sukkot in Israel. It’s always amazing to mingle with our brothers and sisters of Judah, especially in the Land. We prayed at the Kotel, floated in the Dead Sea; and enjoyed the best shwarmas ever at Moshiko’s on Ben Yehuda Street, while watching the crowds swell after the close of each Shabbat.
We shopped at Mahane Yehuda, aka the Shuk, for the most amazing fruits, veggies, nuts, and breads to create some pretty wonderful meals in our apartment. As much as possible, we got as close as we could to actually living there.
We had a few opportunities to meet up with various people in the land, we enjoyed a sweet visit with Ephraim and Rimona Frank, who treated us to lunch and a tour around Zichron Ya’acov. They had also invited us to join them and a few people from the home fellowships they are involved with (http:israelitereturn.com).
Ron was able to attend the Ephraimite Meet-Up in Liberty Park and reconnected with people he hadn’t seen in a while. We were able to attend a Bible study on our last night in Jerusalem, catching up with other friends and meeting new ones.
One of our sweetest memories is being able to travel with another family from our home fellowship, spending as much time as possible with them and their 3 boys, before her parents arrived from the States for their first time in Israel. That was a wonderful blessing, to help introduce first-timers to the Land.
We traveled to Itamar, a community just north of Jerusalem in Samaria, which was established in the mid-‘80s. We wanted to connect with Rabbi Moshe and Leah Goldsmith, who were one of the original families to establish the community. When we arrived, they embraced each of us with open arms, inviting us to enjoy snacks and drinks in their beautiful sukkah, and taking us on a tour of their community. Their hospitality was warm and generous (https://touritamarsupportisrael.com/).
To put an exclamation point on the end of our residency in Jerusalem, we enjoyed a visit with Hanoch Young, squeezing in as much conversation as possible between bites of the most luscious and exotic Moroccan meal. Talk about talking with your mouth full! (https://kolyehuda.com)
The absolute beauty of the Land of Israel takes me by surprise every time. The way the different greens from emerald to sage, contrast with the vibrant colors of the bougainvillea, while at the same time complimenting the soft colors of the trumpet vine; how the turquoise blue of the Mediterranean sweeps away from the golden tans of the sandy shores; and how the waving fronds of the palm trees cool off the bright golden stone of every structure.
There’s so much to share about the sights, sounds, and smells of Israel and the different spiritual atmospheres between dignified Jerusalem, pastoral Zichron Ya’acov, and party 24/7 Tel Aviv. One has to go for themselves, see it, feel it.
While walking around, yes, it’s pretty much up and up some more. The saying, “whatever goes up must come down,” seems not to apply there. And, yes, the travel to get there can be exhausting and expensive – at least from the western USA. These are things to know. But, if there’s one thing to remember, it’s that the Land of Israel is good, more than worth the effort, more than words can say.
Considering the little 40-year trek around the desert which followed the last spy’s reports, our effort to get there, it’s nothin’! And these two spies, wanting to make their trek as short as possible, are certainly returning to their outpost with a joyful report, a blessed report, a beautiful report. A report you may consider to be your official invitation to visit His Land. The Beautiful Land. The Blessed Land. The Joyful Land. The Land most definitely filled with milk and honey.