Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Don't look back in anger

or regret.

Holidays don't often generate this many mixed feelings, generally being sources of significant pleasure and just occasionally considerable disappointment.

The reason we did this trip was probably not good: certain friends had been on similar trips organised by the same people, and come back exulting over how wonderful it had been, including a friend who is generally similarly inclined to question things in the way that I do. And it is THE place with so many significant historical sites that have influenced Middle Eastern and European culture for the last 2000 odd years, so of course we *should* see it.

Stepping back for a moment, I'm aware of my feelings oscillating about the whole thing, sometimes damning the experience and sometimes thinking that I *should* have enjoyed it (and asking why I didn't).

And that's hard to answer.

Curiously, I didn't find the traditional church stuff especially jarring or wrong, and it was the times of contemporary worship and even bible reading that grated as being out of place, getting in the way of understanding what happened and where I was. It felt a little like trying to impose pop-culture on something deeper, when silence would have been better. I'm guessing some of the others felt it too, when some noted the silent time while floating on the sea of Galilee was most significant for them.

Our tour leaders, Geoff and Mary, did an incredibly good job of organising and making sure we saw everything on the itinerary as much as was humanly possible, while trying to include faith moments (even if those faith moments worked against it for me). They gave themselves, and are probably now trying to rest & recuperate, since they aren't exactly young any more.

As for the land itself, Israel seems to be burying much of their heritage under concrete and stone, building everywhere to house their expanding population, although I'm not so sure they've taken care of necessary infrastructure. Galilee area wasn't so bad, but the land around Jerusalem is now ugly - no other word for it really - and apart from the temple area it could be any large, badly managed urban sprawl in a hot climate.

Would I go back or recommend anyone else to visit?

That's difficult. Jerusalem has fascinating areas that could have stood a lot more exploration, and likewise the wilderness has both beauty and bleakness that would justify spending much more time in. Otherwise I'd say no, and to someone visiting I'd suggest avoiding the key religious sites, because whatever meaning they might have for you now, the actuality will almost certainly be disappointing. So what if Jesus walked there - if He's not alive in your heart and much larger than that pavement then it doesn't matter. I still remember the excitement of Raja the coach driver, stopping at the Elvis American Diner compared to how he felt about the rest of the stuff we visited, and that may tell you something.

My attitude will probably soften in forgetting the poor and mediocre, and in remembering the exploration.


  1. Fascinating to read your posts and experience. When I studied Old Testament and Ancient History I had a strong desire to visit but didn't find the time or means to do so. Now, I don't know how it would resonate with me.

  2. Hi Fern. I suspect you would be disappointed to see it all disappearing under concrete, but love photographing the people and their environment. Seeing 'bible scenes' in most of that place required more faith than I think I've ever had, and I have certainly felt a much closer connection to Jesus and the new testament in Philippi and to a somewhat lesser extent in Ephesus. Just going to the places where things may or may not have happened didn't seem helpful.

    Talking with someone who has also been there since returning, they mentioned that they also didn't feel anything special while there, and I was grateful to know we were not the only ones.


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