My First Trip to Israel: A Roman Catholic's Travel Diary
What is my Israel story? Let’s start with this: I am a Roman Catholic who lives in a Jewish family. What you are about to read are observations from that perspective. The following excerpts come from the journal I kept during my first trip to Israel in 2004.
July 20, The Flight: The flight from Newark to Tel Aviv was full of Orthodox Jews. It was wonderful to be saying the rosary three feet away from a man saying his morning prayers. Despite all the children on the flight, there was very little crying. The woman sitting next to me visits her daughter and five grandchildren every year. Her son-in-law was killed. She doesn’t understand how anyone would want to destroy a country where the people of three religions all live “together." She had nightmares all night and grabbed my arm from time to time.
July 21, Tel Aviv: We arrived in Tel Aviv to collect our mighty steed, a tiny white Hyundai. We drove to Nahsholim, a picture-perfect resort where we dined on huge buffets of Mediterranean delights and strolled on a moonlit beach until the crescent moon slipped like a sabre slowly into the sea.
July 23, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem: We went to the shopping mall with our daughters, Dusty and Tatty. Tatty looked fetching in her new Israeli garb and jewelry. Though we had been warned to stay away from such places, Dusty had been hanging out with some women Israeli soldiers, all about her age, and was rather nonchalant in her response to my concerns. There were many, many soldiers. However, people just go on living here, whether they are relaxing at a resort or shopping like crazy at the mall. It took us half an hour to find our car in the parking lot. It seems that everyone who shopped that day had a white steed.
Then we drove to Jerusalem. The landscape got hillier and the bushes bushier. After some wandering and twisting, we found Nurit’s house in the German Colony, Emek-Refaim. Nurit is the 80-year-old grandmother of a friend of the girls, and she had invited us to Shabbat dinner. We heard the shofar, saw no soldiers, and watched the Orthodox walk to synogogue. Nurit is a walking history book, a small, feisty woman who has lived in Israel her entire life. She has been through all the world and Israeli wars. She spread out a Shabbat feast prepared solely by her – what is better than to be with one's family and a dear new friend over a lovely Shabbat dinner in Jerusalem?
August 3, Jerusalem: My husband Tim and I explored the Old City together, and then I ventured out on my own because I wanted to see the Christian sites. There are so few tourists this year that I had my pick of guides. Sylvia was my personal guide and very knowledgeable. Around 4:00pm, the narrow market place was emptying, as it was soon time for the Muslims to pray. The last site was the Stations of the Cross, the fourteenth station being the Holy Sepulchre itself. I entered and was speechless that God had brought me to this day. The bells started ringing loudly. I prayed, lit a candle, and asked about the bells. Sylvia said different bells ring for seven different kinds of Christian churches, and each have their own time to process. The bells just then happened to be for the Roman Catholic Franciscans. I felt I was being celebrated by my church on Holy Ground and Sylvia, my Israeli guide, was gracious enough to allow it.
I felt blessed in this entire experience. What a high!
Karen Klobucher is married to Tim Klass, the mother of Dusty and Tatty, a Montessori teacher, and drama specialist. She is a member of both Temple B’nai Torah and St. George Parish in Seattle, WA, and she founded a Society of St.Vincent de Paul chapter at St. George in late 2004.