I can sum up my trip to Israel in one word: SABABA. It’s a Hebrew term meaning awesome, cool, great, no problem, all right, or having fun. Sababa can also be a way of life, similar to HAKUNA MATATA. To solidify this, I found a store with the same name while on a walk-about near the Angel Hotel in Bethlehem. Walk-abouts not only support the local economy, but they build international relations. It’s important to contribute to society.
My trip to Israel really was sababa. The significance and beauty of the sites were overwhelming. There were many times during this trip that my surroundings took my breath away.
In Jerusalem, I wrote prayer requests on a slip of paper and pushed it into a crevice on the Western Wall. (Notes on the Western Wall are collected twice a year and buried at the Mount of Olives.) I rode a camel. Near the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes, I met Joseph, a fruit stand owner, who let me press my own pomegranate juice. I saw beautiful stained glass windows and tile mosaics in churches, temples, cathedrals, synagogues, historic ruins, and other structures that date back hundreds (or thousands) of years. I walked along the Via Dolorosa, remembering Jesus’s footsteps to the cross. In Qumran, I floated in the Dead Sea and covered my face with its nutrient-rich black mud.
I walked the streets of Old Jerusalem and ate the most delicious shawarma in the Armenian Quarter. Shawarma is an Arab cooking technique for roasting meat (usually chicken or lamb) on a vertical spit that spins around an open flame or heating element. It’s a popular dish from street vendors too. My touring group ate at Grandma’s Kitchen, an Armenian family restaurant nestled beside a Catholic Church and courtyard with outdoor seating. They served shawarma chicken inside a freshly baked pita with hummus, lettuce, tomato, cucumbers, and thinly sliced red onions. After walking nearly five miles around the Old City, lunch was not only delicious, but it also offered an opportunity to sit and relax.
A week ago, I began this Holy Land tour in Bethlehem, where Jesus was born, then meandered through the hills and valleys where He ministered, including Bethsaida, Galilee, Capernaum, Tabgha, and Tiberias. The final day’s tour included walking the Via Dolorosa to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher (the traditional site of Jesus’s crucifixion, burial, and resurrection), through Jerusalem’s Archeological Park, the Western (or Wailing) Wall, and the teaching steps along the Temple’s southern wall.
The group and I exited the Old City through the Damascus Gate and concluded our tour, appropriately, at The Garden Tomb. It was here that I learned another Hebrew word: DAYENU (pronounced day-new). Dayenu means enough, or sufficient, and is a popular Passover song. The song is about being grateful to God for all of the gifts he gave the Jewish people, such as taking them out of slavery, giving them the Torah, and had God only given one of the gifts, it would have still been enough. As a Christian, however, Jesus’s birth, ministry and miracles, and death do not finish the story. My dayenu — the cornerstone of my faith — is Jesus’s resurrection. Praise God, that tomb is empty!
21-thousand miles and two Trans-Atlantic flights later, it’s good to be home. I can say with assurance that I have fallen in love with Israel’s sites and people and I will return to the Holy Land. After all, I have new friends there and they are expecting to see me again!