Saturday, January 14, 2006
253. Israel, part 4
(A photo--the Old City in the distance--from Tuesday evening en route back to the hotel, capturing my out-of-focus, overwhelmed state.)
Hiked up Masada. The stones are so clean! In Rome twenty years ago, I was saddened by how old and dirty everything looked. I expected the same of these ancient ruins, as well, but everything is drenched in sunlight. It almost looks new. I had no idea that at the top of Masada lie shadows of homes, a synagogue, outlines still clinging to the edges of the tan-red precipice of Roman outposts that the Jews must have glimpsed with terror as, with honor, they took their own lives. At the end of this expanse, a swath of green-blue sea clear as an eye.
None of the photos I'd seen of Jerusalem prepared me for the waves of hills and valleys alongside all the roads travelled by our bus, bowls with dusty white-walled homes climbing in spirals up their their insides, one after another, to make up the landscape.
After a brief stop for lunch at the side of the Dead Sea, which I touched for about a second, we headed to Ein Gedi, a nature preserve. This is what Eden must have looked like. The gazelles leapt here as David watched and wrote. We climbed up to a waterfall, and I think I finally understood--why people dreamed, fought, died for this land, and continue to do so. Why we pray about it. At that moment it seemed as if I had never been in such a beautiful place in all my life. And I felt, in a way I don't really understand, like I had been here always.