Reminiscing: Israel

My body is very confused about what time it is, so I thought I would go back through my pictures for the first time – more than 2,000 pictures I shared while we were in Israel, and tell some of the stories I had not yet had time to share.

Our days were so full, start to finish. There was no time to write. We woke at 6, had breakfast at 7, and were on the road by 8, almost every day – a few days it was earlier. By the time our day was finished, we were literally exhausted – physically and emotionally – and there was no energy for writing, and we needed the sleep to get up again the next morning. It was intense and exhausting, but in the best of ways.

My hair was its own issue. I forgot rubber bands to pull it back, and most days did not have time to pin it back with the few bobby pins I brought. I cannot put my cochlear implant processors on until my hair is dry, and once they are in place they need to stay there because my hair is so thick and it is hard to get them in place to stay, without my hair making the magnets cut in and out (so annoying because then, of course, the sound cuts in and out). Plus, it was raining the whole entire trip, and it was almost always windy (on top of the mountains, on the Sea, in the hills, in the desert). So most days I just had a ‘fro, and it got bigger and bigger as the day passed. Pulling my hair back out of my face was the first thing I did when I got home (after loving on my puppy dogs, of course).

My body feels alive and strong, the best I have felt since before whacky ovaries last year (I go in a few months to repeat all the cancer testing to be sure I am still clear – my mother will not let me forget or get out of it!), and since before my head got cut open TWICE for the cochlear implants. We hiked and walked for hours every day, usually only 4-6 miles, but within that 4-6 miles was lots of stopping and standing and talking. So that made it a good interval workout! It was not like on my river, where I can run for six miles quickly and then be done! So this we did every morning, and then again in the afternoon, totaling 8-12 miles a day. Depending where we were at, this several times included almost a thousand stairs either up or down, plus however many to get back to where we started. This made it fairly intense physically, but spaced out enough that it was not impossible or too hard. For me, the hardest part was walking slowly – whether in the streets or on the stairs – because that is much harder physically than if I were just running around on my own, using two or three times the muscles to go slowly. It was like boot camp, except we had Anat instead of Jillian. We were always proud of ourselves when were able to survive each day, and it was good to feel strong and healthy and well and alive.

I loved the group of us that traveled together. They were amazing people, and very kind to me. They watched out for me, and we all became good friends. They were funny and smart and witty and clever, and I really enjoyed my time with them very much. They did great communicating with me, and they asked great questions about Deafness and cochlear implants and real life things. We all learned so much from each other!

I usually ate in the corner wherever our food was, trying to get a bit out of the crowd. Meal time was often very loud, and the noise unsettles my stomach from the vertigo. That was maybe the greatest challenge on the trip (besides the stairs, which I do not mind going up but were really hard going down). It was time for everyone to get know each other, to socialize, and to share our experiences of the day – but it was so hard for me to hear and understand! However, after meals were done, and most people were gone, and it was more quiet – then we had many great conversations, and I cherish those times with my new friends.

The food was good. All of it had a distinctive flavor, which I finally learned was زَعْتَر, or za’atar, a seasoning blend of hyssop with some oregano, basil thyme, sumac, savory, and sesame. Everything is seasoned with it. The meat is cooked in it, and you get a little packet of it when you buy bread on the street (either to sprinkle on the bread dry, or add oil to make the dipping sauce). Usually there was a salad bar, which was actually a spread of pickeled vegetables. I didn’t eat much of these, but understand why they would need to pickle everything to last through the desert year. It was beautiful because they make them the brightest colors, so that it looks like food from Peter Pan. I did eat a lot of vegetables that were fresh as well, and these were good. There are a lot of sauces of yogurt and cucumbers also, meant to cool your palate with the other spicy foods. All of this you can either eat as different salads, or throw into pita bread that is offered at every meal. The pita bread is amazing, not like the thin dried bread here. It is thick and yummy. There is always at least one kind of hummus (if not five) to throw into the pita, and it is yummy, yummy, yummy. We had a lot of fish, this being a country that has both the Mediterranean and the Sea of Galilee. Other meats were usually chicken, goose, duck, beef, or mutton (all kosher foods, so no pork). There was always some grain offered, either bulgar (wheat) or couscous or tabouli – or often all three choices, and I liked all of them. Fruit was everywhere, whether at meal time or at gift shops or at snack stands or the markets. I ate tons of pears and apples and oranges and tangerines and mangos and pomegrantes. Also, there was always dried fruit salad bars also, and most every meal had dates. Dates have tons of nutrients, almost everything you need, so it makes sense why they would be so important here (besides growing so well). I had at least one date with almost every meal, I think, but loved best the date syrup on the day they gave us pancakes (I cried! ha!) and the date honey and the date paste with walnuts in it (which I bought some to bring home, and mom and I enjoyed a taste last night). My favorite foods were probably some of the soups: one place made the most amazing lentil soup I have ever had, another place had an incredible pea soup, and another place had the yummiest pumpkin soup ever. But like any country, there were other places the soup was okay or so-so or not so good. I very much enjoyed the yummy ones, especially on the cold and rainy days.

I was very glad the trip unfolded as it did. Our first days by the Mediterranean Sea shocked me into the beauty of the country, and was a good transition between modern and ancient. It prepared me for the ancient cities we saw as we began our archeology lessons. I am glad we went next to Galilee, were it is ancient and peaceful, and that we had time to learn here before going down to Jerusalem. The city is so busy and loud and crowded, that I would not have so enjoyed it or understood it if I had not been taught first in Galilee. I needed to learn first how to see those layers, what to look for, what I was looking at, and what it all meant, before jumping into the crowded city. It was perfect, and I enjoyed every minute.

I love that Anat taught me not only archealogy and Hebrew, but also about what ancient history has to do with today, and about flowers and birds and animals. She gave us not just a site-seeing tour of history, but the full cultural experience of everything around us and all its layers. I loved every moment, really.

It was the end of the rainy season, which is why you got so many awesome shots of my awesome pink raincoat. The rain is rather spontaneous, and some days it rained all day. So all my pics are of me in the raincoat, instead of showing off my awesome tourist clothes! By the end of the trip, my raincoat was literally shredded, worn out from climbing on rocks and hiking over ruins and getting caught on trams. But it was the most used coat I ever had, and it served me well till the last day!

There is so much to learn in Israel. Our country here is such an infant, and even the historical places in Europe are not ancient as the places in Israel. This is not two hundred or five hundred years ago. The places in Israel are documented three thousand years ago! There is SO MUCH to learn, and those layers must be learned to understand what is happening there currently. Now that I have gone, studied those layers to understand the pieces, taken all my tourist pictures and seen all the places, I need to go back again to just soak it all in with the time to ponder. I would not change this trip at all, and it was not so much fast-paced as it was we just got to see so much. But the more I saw, the hungrier I got for more, more, more.

I will want to go back again someday, now that I am over the culture shock of ancient awesome-ness, just to revel in it all, and to have more time to ponder and experience and play, now that I have learned my way around.

It was amazing.

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About Emily

I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since 2009. I serve as a Chaplain, and work as a counselor. I got bilateral cochlear implants in 2010, but will always love sign language. I choose books over television, and organics over processed. Nothing is as close to flying as ballroom dancing - except maybe running, when in the solo mood. I would rather be outside than anywhere else, especially at the river riding my bike or kayaking. PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy, and currently doing a post-doc in Jewish Studies and an MDiv in Pastoral Counseling. The best thing about Emily World is that it's always an adventure, even if (not so) grammatically precise. The only thing better than writing is being married to a writer. Nathan Christensen and I were married in the Oklahoma City temple on 13 October 2012, and have since fostered more than eighty-five children. We have adopted the six who stayed, and are totally and completely and helplessly in love with our family. Nathan writes musical theater, including "Broadcast" (a musical history of the radio) and an adaption of Lois Lowry's "The Giver". He served his mission in South Korea, has taught song-writing in New York City public schools, and worked as a theater critic for a Tucson newspaper. This is not an official Web site of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

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