Saturday, July 17, 2010

Local Paper News Article

Posted by Colleen


We are heading back to the Treasury of Petra which is located just inside the siq, a narrow passage at the entrance. (The horn of the saddle was rubbing Eric’s back which is the reason for the groans you will hear on the video.)

Below is an article that I wrote for my hometown, Collinsville, OK.

Four months in Israel. It sounded like someone else's life, certainly not ours. We had dreamed of visiting for years but never thought it would happen. We certainly wouldn’t have believed that we would live there for 4 months. After all, Moses wasn't allowed to enter the land, what made us think we would?
This past spring, my family moved to Jerusalem. I can imagine the questions flooding your mind. No doubt one of them is, "Were you safe?" We can easily say that we were safer living in Jerusalem than we ever were getting onto I-35 in Austin where we lived the past 10 years.
Actually, Jerusalem was not only a safe place to live, but it was as amazing as it sounds. We found our apartment on Craigslist so when they said that it was across the street from the President's home, it was a little unbelievable. However, it was literally across the street from President Shimon Peres' home. We were greeted both coming and going by his well-armed security guards. We were also privy to many fly-overs, helicopter security, band performances and special galas happening on the grounds. What made our location even more amazing is that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lived just around the corner, about a 5 minute walk.

Our apartment was located about a 10 minute walk from Old City. Our purpose for living there was for my husband Eric, who is working on his Masters in Theology, to attend Jerusalem University College, which is located just outside of the Zion Gate to Old City.

It’s pretty cool living in the oldest continually inhabited city in the world. Modern Jerusalem is really new and quite, well… modern, almost all of it was built since Israel’s inception in 1948, but in the center is Old City Jerusalem, established in the year 4000… yeah, that’s BC. Parts of it are still around from the time Jesus walked the streets. The Old City is about one square kilometer, and surrounded by massive stone walls. My kids played on sections of those walls that existed before the United States, before the pilgrims, or Columbus sailed the ocean blue, before England or Spain even existed. To stand just feet from those towering old walls takes your breath away.

People ask, "What is the most incredible thing you did in Israel?" that’s like asking a mother to name her favorite child. Heck, it's hard to limit it to our top 10, especially since there were 5 of us, each with a different list. Camel and horse rides top the list for 4 year old, Lillian. For Celine (10) and Tally (12) it’s visiting Petra, in Jordan. Eric says he most enjoyed learning the history and watching a bar mitzvah take place on the top of Masada, but I think he secretly better enjoyed scaring me to death by standing on the precipice overlooking Mitspah Ramon, Israel's Grand Canyon. As for me, walking the streets, sitting in the cafes, shopping at the markets while attempting to speak Hebrew with anyone who would endure it was by far, hands-down, my all time favorite, would-do-it-again-if-given-the-chance best part of my four month journey in Israel. I loved the people, Jew and Arab alike. I love them even more for putting up with my mutilation of their language.

Lillian riding the horse named Susannah. After the camels, we walked through the siq then put Lillian on the horse to leave Petra, about a 1/4 mile. The people walking the opposite direction were just getting to Petra.

Living anywhere for four months is quite different than visiting for a week. Once we came out of the initial shock, learned how to navigate the town and the markets we eventually felt like one of the people (except we spoke very poor Hebrew). You might say it was like normalcy interspersed with frequent, if sometimes random, moments of inspired greatness. On a couple of occasions we got to watch others experience those great moments too. While there, some friends come to Israel for a 10-day tour. We knew that their group would be arriving at the Western Wall in Old City around 4:00pm (it’s that wall you’ve undoubtedly seen pictures of, with the hundreds of Jewish worshippers standing there praying). We remembered our first visit to the Western Wall Plaza and the site being almost unbearable because of its greatness, its spiritual importance and the sheer enormity of the actual wall. You have to just stand still for a while to take it all in, what it all means and what makes it so great. We desired for our friends to have that same experience, that same pinch me so I know I’m awake feeling, so we stood in the background and just experienced the Wall all over again until they arrived. They were not disappointed.

Walking everywhere, we became so familiar with the city and how it changes as you go from one part to the next. Old City alone, depending on what gate you enter, can be a most exciting cultural experience. As you enter the Zion Gate on the south end of Old City, the neatness and order of the Armenian Quarter is striking. As you continue down Habad Street you are straddling the division between the Jewish and the Armenian Quarter dodging Jewish men and their sons hurrying to get to the Western Wall for prayers. Before you know it, you pass under an arch and find yourself between the Christian and Muslim Quarters and faced with more options of Judaica (souvenirs) than you thought possible till finally you arrive at the Damascus Gate which resembles a scene from an Indiana Jones movie -- Muslim merchants yelling all around you, enticing you with the “best price“on spices, grape leaves or camel leather shoes.
I relished observing Jews doing business with Muslims -- something you wouldn't expect if you relied on the media. I found my camera rising to snap a picture of this exchange whenever possible because I found it refreshing and quite a contrast to what we see at home on the news. The situation in Israel is complicated and built on centuries of history but few here in the States are telling the whole story. Being there for 4 months, living among them and reading their papers, I got to know them a little better but there is much to learn.

Market inside Damascus Gate (Jews and Arabs)

This is one of my favorite pictures. The guy in the middle holding the lettuce—he is yelling out prices, the ladies sitting on the ground are selling their crops, probably grape leaves, the Hasidic Jewish men on the left just made a purchase, and in the foreground are Tally and Celine observing it all. This is the suk just inside Damascus gate of the Muslim Quarter where you can buy produce, shoes, clothes, house wares, etc.

Something that impacted us all equally was the terrain of Israel, Jerusalem especially. In the Bible, Jesus walks from Jericho to Jerusalem not long before he would enter Jerusalem and be heralded as King of Kings. However, between these two cities is a vast wilderness of ridges cut through with deep wadis (small rivers that run with water only during the rainy season). When you see that rugged, difficult country, you know you would not want to lose your way -- at night for fear of the fierce wild animals and during the day for the parching, hot, unforgiving sun. Standing there, it was clear to see the way Jesus came because to venture off the ridge route that is still in use today would have been a grave mistake. It was historical, geographical, but certainly spiritual standing there as well. Overlooking this route, we once contemplated Psalm 139, "If I were to fly away on the wings of the dawn, and settle down on the other side of the sea, even there your hand would guide me." Eagles often rise out of the bottom of these wadis and fly out and above the ridges in this area early in the dawn.
One day we stood at the top of Mt. Olive before heading down into the Kidron Valley and back up again to the Lion Gate of Old City. This is the same walk Jesus took the Sunday before he was crucified. Mt. Olive rises 2,676 feet. From the top, Jesus would have had a view of the Temple, where the Dome of the Rock now stands. The view can't be described, only experienced, there hasn’t yet been a piece of equipment invented that can capture that kind of scene. Eric said to me one day, “I ought to just throw away my camera because what I see in the viewfinder is not what we are looking at.”

We were heading to the bagel shop in the Jewish Quarter when this group of Jewish boys singing and dancing came up. They were young enough to think it was cool to have their picture taken. Also, notice Tally and Celine at the end of this clip.

If you are interested in reading more about our travels, what we saw, what we learned, please go to to read our blog. We continue to post about Israel so it is still current. Also, if you are ever presented the opportunity to travel to or live in Jerusalem, don't hesitate--certainly don't wait for "things to get better."

IMG_2074Eric and I enjoying the peaceful waters of En Gedi, a place that David hid from Saul. The girls are in front of us playing in the springs.

“Pray for peace in Jerusalem,” a saying you see all over the city. If I have brought anything back with me, it is the desire for people to pray for Israel.