The Holy Land


↑ video - highlights shot on nikon d750 + gopro hero silver 4

photos - shot on nikon d750 ↓


 

atlanta → paris → tel aviv

didn't sleep much, but got to see a stunning starscape during the overnight flight (not pictured, but I included the notes I scribbled down in my sleep deprived-state). my initial impression of the land wasn't until I woke up the next morning in jerusalem - I saw a very developed city, with lots of sand-colored stone architecture. it felt very european, with a middle eastern vibe. I liked it. 

then we went to bethlehem, and visited the aida refugee camp.

I was overwhelmed by the oppressive presence of the separation wall. it cut through the land like a unending snake, and cast a shadow of bitterness on the community it cut off. I was captivated by the use of street art - painted all over the wall itself and the surrounding walls - to communicate a potent message. I scribbled down some thoughts about the nature of this great divide in the hearts of the people who inhabit this land. 

the key is a strong symbol for the refugees displaced by israeli military - they keep the keys of their homes in hope that some day they will return. 

on to lighter things

though, the entire trip was overshadowed by the heaviness of the situation, the conflict. border check points and military presence were a constant reminder that this land and its people are not at peace. 

but, the landscapes were quite stunning. I was surprised at the abundance of rolling hills and rocky terrain - and palm trees! 

our cultural experience was rich - from visiting a 1st-century re-enactment of life in a jewish village, to having engaging conversations with religious leaders and locals, we received a diverse assortment of perspectives on the many facets of life in the land, both 2000 years ago and today.

I enjoyed watching the relationships within out team deepen, and took the opportunity to take a few portraits when the light was just right.  

some team members joined a casual game of pickup soccer with a few palestinian boys in the middle of the ruins of king herod's palace (casual).

 

by far my favorite day - sailing on the sea of galilee. 

floating in the dead sea was pretty rad too. 

we visited capernaum and saw the ruins of the synagogue where jesus likely began his ministry, and ate fish on the shores of galilee. 

overall, I just really loved the desert landscape surrounding jericho. 

we returned to bethlehem, and spend the remainder of the trip there and in jerusalem. we visited many famous churches and holy sites, all of which were bustling with tourists and pilgrims. 

I much preferred our quiet morning spend with a man named Daoud, a farmer and palestinian christian living a few miles outside of bethlehem. he shared his story of peaceful but persistent resistance to israeli efforts to push him off of his land. he was forced to become completely self-reliant, even collecting energy from solar panels and rainwater in cisterns. he now operates an entirely self-sustaining farm which draws visitors from around the globe and provides education opportunities for local school children to come and learn about environmental responsibility. he spoke about his personal mission to channel frustration into a creative and positive avenue, as he is doing with his farm. he had the most compassionate heart towards his fellow palestinians, as well as the neighboring israeli settlers. I was filled with hope, knowing that good men like Dauod were seeking a non-violent path to justice and peace. 

jericho road, perhaps one of the oldest roads still in existence today, runs through the heart of east jersualem and is dissected by the separation wall. once again, the glowing beauty of the city faced a stark contrast against the dull and harsh concrete wall splitting the land in two. 

I'm thankful for the opportunity to see many different sides of the story - we spoke to both israelis and palestinians, muslims, jews and christians, people living in israel proper and the west bank - there's no "good guy" or "bad guy" in my opinion, just a whole lot of people who are misunderstood and hurting. 

we ended our experience with an immersion in the old city, and the rich religious, cultural and historical flavor was beautiful and captivating. my farewell thoughts rested on the magnificent dome of the rock, a sight I feel privileged to have seen with my own eyes, up close in person. no jew can visit the former temple mount where the dome now rests; conversely, many muslim palestinians cannot obtain entrance to the city to visit the mosque. as a christian american tourist, I had the opportunity to set foot on stones that many will never touch.

I relish my experience in the holy land. the opportunity to step into a region saturated with a long history of holiness, hostility, and bloodshed as a (mostly) unbiased tourist was a unique and rich experience I know I will never forget.