Gallery: The Promised Land by Anne Batty [8 Images] Click any image to expand.
by Anne Batty
“Israel is the only nation on earth that inhabits the same land, bears the same name, speaks the same language, and worships the same God that it did 3,000 years ago”
… from a quote by Charles Krauthammer, Pulitzer Prize winning columnist.
Standing upon ground where the history of a people began thousands of years ago generates a “once upon a time” feeling. Israel is that kind of country.
Not only a land steeped in the historically holy, it is one of many varietals ... one where ethnicities and religions co-exist, sometimes amicably, most often not. A land not only varied in history and culture, but topographically as well.
Biblically it is referred to as the holy land, the promised-land, the land of milk and honey. But labels aside, Israel’s landscape is reminiscent of California’s with its majestic mountains, fertile valleys, arid deserts and azure blue seas.
Three of Israel’s four seas - the Mediterranean Sea, Red Sea, Dead Sea and Sea of Galilee - have played a large part in the biblical history of this nation.
On Caesarea’s Mediterranean coast the ruins of Herod’s castle, the jail cell of the Apostle Paul, the Roman Amphitheatre and Aqueduct, and the Crusader’s church give evidence to recorded events of the past.
About a mile inland from the Dead Sea the historic discovery in a cave uncovered ancient scrolls written on parchment, papyrus and bronze. Found there were texts of historical, religious and linguistic significance, including the earliest known surviving manuscripts found in the Hebrew Bible canon, as well as works revealing evidence of diverse religious thought. And above the shimmering surface of this body of water the biblical mountains of Moab and Edom stand guard, where it has been written that Moses and the Israelites oversaw this lowest spot on earth. Observing only arid desert and a body of water containing no life of any sort within it or around it, perhaps the saving grace was discovering the healing properties of the sea’s saline waters, and believing that beyond was a land filled with promise.
The emerald Sea of Galilee made history when Jesus is said to have called the fishermen from its shores to follow Him and become His disciples. While writings proclaim that a short time later Jesus summoned the Apostle Peter to join Him as He walked on these waters and calmed a storm. And in the town of Nazareth, perched near the halo of purplish-brown mountains surrounding the kinnor or harp-shaped Galilean Sea, the largest church in the Middle East, the Basilica of the Annunciation commemorates the Angel Gabriel’s message that the Virgin Mary was chosen by God to bear His son.
Without and within the walled City of Jerusalem people from varying cultural and religious beliefs live, labor and worship in spite of their differences … often peaceably, other times not.
The different ethnics can be identified by their dress (colors, veils, scarves, long skirts, suits, hats, turbans, etc.), and their physicality (beards, tendrils, etc.).
Others can be identified by their religiosity.
Those of the Messianic Jewish faith celebrate Shabat ceasing from work from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. During that time, no labor of any kind is performed. Those strict in their beliefs shut down their business, dine out (no cooking) and walk everywhere (no driving). Many spend Shabat in hotels where special elevators make stops at every floor (no selecting floors) and celebrations are held with the evening meal with only the Rabbi and Jewish males permitted to participate in the traditional dances.
Loud speakers throughout the country broadcast the Islamic call to prayer five times daily. Prayer is performed on a prayer rug with the participants facing Mecca. They do so as they believe it is the holiest place on earth and it is also the birthplace of the prophet Mohammed.
Within the walled City of Jerusalem stands the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Believed to have been built on the site of the Crucifixion, four religions share this site, Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Muslim, and Jews.
Purported to be the holiest shrine within the old city of Jerusalem is the Western Wall. This wall is part of the retaining wall supporting the temple mount built by the Roman King Herod in 20 BC. This wall became known as the Wailing Wall because the Jews were only allowed to enter Jerusalem once a year from 70 AD until the Byzantine period. Then they were denied access once again from 1948 -1967 when it was in the Jordanian section of the city. After the Six Day War it became a place for rejoicing and prayer. It is the last accessible relic of the last Temple built.
Traveling to a distant destination provides opportunity to step outside the ordinary into the extraordinary. A visit to Israel is no exception. And whether one is seeking history or spirituality, it’s hard to deny that a visit there gives travelers the “once upon a time” feeling of having stepped upon a ground made holy by the chronicling of history.