Middle East


Israel: a culturally and religiously diverse country. I stood off the shore of the Jordan River with a group of graduate students, we took in the Middle Eastern desert scenery as it rained and rained. The wet afternoon in the holy land is something our Jewish counterparts were praying for, for months. It just so happened to be the week and a half we decided to visit. A country, which suffers from drought, welcomed us with torrential downpour for the last few days of our trip. Standing among the tourists near the Jordan River, the rain wasn’t what was stealing my attention. As the throngs of people clothed themselves in white linen to be baptized in the biblical waters, a sight caught my eye. Capturing the glances of a crowded group of students stood a European man in the Jordan River. Going solo, he enjoyed the limits of baptizing himself over and over again in the Jordan River. With a cross around his neck, sporting the white linen robe, he baptized himself over and over again. The only thing lacking was the bathing suit under the linen robe. Now, I am on a Biblical Tour, I thought to myself, but this is hilarious. Here stands a man in a now transparent robe in front of a group of seminary students. With no undergarments, our guide grabs the nearest towel and encourages the man to exit the waters while covering up. No shame my friends, no shame. I knew the true meaning of freedom. Biblical yet, practical it seriously spiced up our trip. 

The trek throughout Israel took us to places such as Mosques, Catholic Cathedrals, hill top cities and olive groves. And yes, lots of hummus. Visiting many “supposed” historical places; such as the supposed birth of Jesus, death of Jesus as well as the house of Simon Peter. Immersing our minds in Biblical knowledge, touring churches, that were dated to the 12th century, we wandered around Jerusalem and dodged the rain, all the while eating all the grape leaves, hummus, dates and breads. Sticking with dairy at breakfast and meat at dinner, I found myself sticking to the bread by the end of the week. The glory of ample dried fruit had my mind saying yes, but my body saying no. The beautiful array of cultures and sounds was brought to life as the call to prayer was heard multiple times of day from the many Mosques, which dotted the country. To think that 3 of the most prominent religions live side by side in such a small geography is fascinating.
Floating in the Dead Sea, visiting Jericho and the Zaccheus tree provided no shortage of sightings in the holy land. A place that requires more than a few days to take in, Israel is a good place to venture out, just maybe not on a Saturday.
There is a ‘Shabbat” elevator for Saturdays, as even the push of a button symbolizes work to some.
Reminders to eat all the ham and cheeses before you depart. You wouldn’t want to get kicked out of a kabob shop because you brought in a latte. I mean, who would do that? Meat plus dairy don’t jive here people! #keepinitkosher 

Both historic and butt sightings encompassed the time away in Israel. Thankful for the religious flare yet shameless tales of experiencing a land with much beauty and history.

hermes Rivera