You might have heard of it.
Well, that's where I was born. That's where my parents both immigrated from. That's where almost all of my extended family still is. That's where I haven't been in over a decade.
The last time I made it 'back home' was in 2004 for a cousin's wedding, which, if you've ever been to a Middle Eastern wedding, you know…lasts a week. Literally. It was madness.
Anyhow, this past summer, I was working relatively close by in Denmark, checked ticket prices, and seeing has how they were about 20% of what it would have been from home, I jumped on the opportunity. And I haven’t the faintest how to start this one properly.
If you come from a foreign country, you'll sort of understand.
If you come from a town in a foreign country where everyone knows everyone, you'll even more than understand.
If you come from a town in a foreign country where everyone knows everyone and you still have family there, you'll know exactly where I'm coming from.
If you come from a town in a foreign country where everyone knows everyone and you still have family there and you haven't seen any of them in over a decade, well...now...that...that is an experience to behold. And behold on tight, because those next 10 days...oh my...those next 10 days...were borderline frightening!
As if the previous 10 days in Denmark weren't enough to make my entire year, the next 10 days in Israel/Palestine truly reminded me how incredibly fortunate and blessed I am, for in this next week and a half (not NEARLY enough time), I would be surrounded by and smothered in more love than should be legal. Seeing as how I hadn't been back in so long, this was a 'homecoming' of sorts in which I'd get swept back and forth and up and down and all around the country for dinners and lunches and drives and excursions with family members and extended family members galore. I don't think I ever got more than a couple hours sleep in between sitting at at least 7 or 8 different tables, each one with anywhere from 10-20 different people, all of which were related to me in one way or another, and many of whom I was only meeting for the first time.
In addition to all the family time, I somehow managed to squeeze in a bit of sightseeing time. While insanely exhausting, it was impossible to complain.
I didn't want it to end.
Although I’m not exactly a ‘religious’ person by any means, it was impossible not to feel the weight of the history of where I was and what I was doing. I got to visit Jerusalem with my cousin and his family where we feasted on shawarma before walking into the old city and following the Via Dolorosa, the path that Jesus took, the stations of the cross, during his final hours. I saw and entered the tomb that he was buried in and saw the spot where his crucifixion took place inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. I got a chance to check out the Garden of Gethsemane, where the garden of olive trees that Jesus spent his final night praying, rests.
I saw the Wailing Wall and The Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa mosque.
I had sushi on the shores of Tel Aviv and shawarma on the shores of Haifa, and more shawarma (this time pork...oh my GOD!) in a Mediterranean town just a few miles south of the border of Lebanon.
We walked through the old city of Akko (Acre) and along the wall that Napoleon was unable to scale (legend has it he threw his hat over the wall to say part of him was in Acre), and saw where Christ fed the masses with a few fish and changed the water to wine and meditated along the shoreline of Lake Galilee.
I walked through the old city and market of Nazareth, saw the caves where Jesus lived and Joseph held his workshop, now under the Church of the Annunciation, and had (yes, another) shawarma besides Mary’s Well.
I spent nights in the old house that my mother’s family grew up in (and still live in). I spent time at my father’s family’s home, that I also remember from visiting as a child, with my cousins and aunt and family, as well as his siblings family’s homes in nearby villages and towns. All the while, it was one dinner after another lunch after another memory before another dinner after another coffee between two more meals with one family after friend of family after family of friend of family after another.
It was insane. In such a good way!
And it was beautiful.
And I can’t even begin to express the myriad of emotions I felt during that time.
So to all my family and friends that helped make my trip so incredibly memorable, I love you. So SO much. I can’t thank you enough for what you did for me and the feelings and thoughts and emotions and memories you instilled in me. I am so forever grateful.
Below is a gallery of images from that whirlwind 10 day trip to the ‘homeland,’ as well as few 360˚ photographs from some of those locations so you can click and drag and enjoy all angles to your hearts’ content.
Hope you enjoy.
And here are a few of those 360˚ photos...for more, including some from the Denmark leg of this trip, visit this Google Plus gallery.
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