Beyond Rye: Israel by Bus and on Foot; Twelve Days of Wonders and Walls

Beyond Rye: Israel by Bus and on Foot; Twelve Days of Wonders and Walls One of the most poignant moments of our recent 12-day tour occurred at a rest stop near an archaeological dig site southwest of Jerusalem. It was the next-to-last day in the country.

BeyondRyeTHUMB
Published January 10, 2013 5:00 AM
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BeyondRyeTHUMBBeyond Rye: Israel by Bus and on Foot; Twelve Days of Wonders and Walls

One of the most poignant moments of our recent 12-day tour occurred at a rest stop near an archaeological dig site southwest of Jerusalem. It was the next-to-last day in the country.

 

By Bill Lawyer  

 

b10 west wallOne of the most poignant moments of our recent 12-day tour occurred at a rest stop near an archaeological dig site southwest of Jerusalem. It was the next-to-last day in the country.

 

Our group had just emerged from man-made “caves” where we searched and sifted for artifacts left behind by the Edomites more than 2,000 years ago.

 

We were all dusty and dirty from digging and crawling through narrow, excavated passageways, and we were beelining for the bathrooms and snack bar.

 

In our way were two busloads of middle school students hanging out and having fun. They were surprised to hear we were Americans, so I began talking with two of the boys who spoke English.

 

After determining that we were from New York, they began to talk about themselves. One blurted out that the village where he lives had been hit by a missile from the Gaza Strip during the recent exchanges that almost caused us to cancel our trip. We were only a few miles from Gaza.

 

The boy said the Israelis were ready for anything, and he wanted to know if the U.S. was going to continue to support them.

 

I was struck by the thought that this is sort of the situation in Israel in general. Here’s a country that goes along from day-to-day with field trips, tourist visits, commuting to work, and celebrating holidays and family milestones.

 

I enjoyed all the widely divergent geographic regions of the tiny country – less than half the size of New Jersey, we were told. But the area that resonated most on a subconscious level for me was the Galilee. Maybe because I grew up in the farm country of south-central Pennsylvania, I really enjoyed the fields, orchards, rivers, and streams – particularly at the Kfar Blum Kibbutz, where we stayed for two nights.

 

b10 waterfallThe day we got to the kibbutz we had first spent several hours at a hilltop village further west named Kfar Kedem. We were just a few miles from the town of Nazareth, where Jesus had grown up and started his ministry before venturing south to Jerusalem.

 

This kibbutz has set up a model village that teaches visitors how life was like in the Galilee back in Biblical times. Everyone had to put on tunics and turbans to get into the right mood. We started out by trying our hand at plowing a field, then cutting the wheat and winnowing it, using technology of the time.

 

Next came converting the flour into dough, then shaping it into pita size for cooking on a dome-shaped grill that was put directly over the fire. They cooked for several minutes, and then we ate them.

 

After a full lunch with lots of local produce and meats, we all got a lesson in donkey guiding and riding. When we left, we brought a homing pigeon along with a vial attached to its leg so we could send a message back to the farm. We released it when we went for a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee.

 

All this happened on a beautiful, warm and sunny day. The area had received more than eight inches of rain the previous weekend, and everything seemed lush. There were ripe almonds still to be picked on the trees in the kibbutz. One resident I spoke to had moved there from Atlanta in the 1970s. He still had traces of a Southern drawl.

 

b10 donkeyBut underlying all this pleasure was the awareness that just a few miles away were Syria and Lebanon, and the remnants of the Yom Kippur War could still be seen of the hillsides – bunkers, abandoned military vehicles, and rock walls.

 

Getting back to the incident at the dig site, the thought that came to me as I looked back on our tour up to that point was how much walls feature prominently in the country’s past and present.

 

When we went to Bethlehem we had to change taxis and go through checkpoints each way. The recently built “security walls” that separate the Israeli from the Palestinian controlled area around Jerusalem bring to mind the Berlin Wall.

 

And walls are the main theme of the history of Jerusalem — walls that were built, destroyed, and rebuilt over the thousands of years that people have been living at that mountainous site. People come from all over to pray at the Western Wall, a remnant of the Temple Mount retaining wall built by King Herod. That wall is divided, too — into men’s and women’s sections.

 

Ironically, the history of walls shows that eventually they all fall down – the Great Wall of China, the Bastille, and the Maginot Line come to mind. And eventually the Edomites tore down their own walls and buildings, rather than leaving them for their enemies.

 

 

 

 

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