Our pilgrimage to Israel began four years ago, following a scary diagnosis and a very specific recommendation.
“You should take your daughter to the Western Wall,” my mom’s friend Sam, a retired Israeli soldier, told her, after hearing that my sister Kathy had been diagnosed with breast cancer.
My mom, who lights candles in almost every church she passes, thought that sounded like a good idea.
She listened carefully when Sam told her that he had taken his own daughter back to Jerusalem following her breast cancer diagnosis, to pray at the Western Wall. Today, Sam’s daughter is in remission.
Last May, I sat next to Kathy’s husband Keith and my mother when Dr. Marsh told us that Kathy’s cancer had metastasized.
“We’re taking her to Israel,” Mom told me, when the dust had settled from that terrible news. “We’re going to pray at the Western Wall.”
On April 22, following 11 months of her careful planning, we did.
The moment we stuffed our written prayers in age-old cracks and placed our hands on one of the holiest sites in the world, felt surreal.
Then, we joined our excellent guide Asher to walk the Via Delarosa, the narrow path through Old Jerusalem said to be the route Jesus walked on his way to his crucifixion. We visited the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, said to house Golgotha, where Jesus was crucified, and the tomb from which he rose from the dead.
During our time in Israel, we strolled past the Garden of Gethsemane, visited Bethlehem, now located in the West Bank, and toured Nazareth. We stood on the banks of the Sea of Galilee, and dipped our feet in the River Jordan.
We enjoyed a lazy float in the Dead Sea and took advantage of its mystical healing qualities.
Ironically, but as we had hoped, we found peace in the Holy Land. En route, a street huckster “Hakuna Matata-ed” Kathy and wished her a long and beautiful life. A Japanese woman inexplicably gave Kathy four tiny paper cranes.
I can’t fit all we experienced during our time in Israel into one post, so I’ll wrap up this one with a word we’ll always associate with our time in that fascinating place.
This very short video marks another surreal moment in our journey, in which our Palestinian guide leads us in singing Silent Night next to the cave in which Jesus was born. Warning: The singing is as terrible as the moment is profound.