Israel, yes ’twas rael

From May 24-June 1st, I was in Israel and it was wild (and real!). I wasn’t sure what to expect. We didn’t have an itinerary until we landed in Tel Aviv and honestly, while I was hopeful for a big spiritual experience, I was also aware that this could be just another trip.

It was not just another trip. 

No, I did not witness anything supernatural or have any big moments, but I was surprised. And lately, if 2022 has taught me anything, it’s to notice when I’m surprised and dig a little deeper.

Here are my Israel lessons~

001. I’ve got to learn to be brave even when it isn’t the last chance I have to do something.

Wowza. We’re already starting off with a kicker. 

Throughout seeing the Mount of Olives, the Garden of Gethsemane, the pools of Bethesda, and SO MUCH MORE, there were times that the only thing that really motivated me was fear. The fear that I’d never get a chance to stand under the waterfalls of En Gedi. Or fear that I wouldn’t return to the heights of Masada. I first noticed that fear at the end of April, but the fear only returned. And I think it’s kinda sad. I think it’s sad to only let fear motivate me. That’s not to say that love hasn’t been a motivator for me before (namely, deciding on UVA) but lately fear’s got a grip on me and it’s not good.

002. The best things in life are the surprises.

You knew this was coming!

I was surprised by what I loved in Israel. I expected to love the Garden and our first day exploring Jerusalem.

However, what I really loved were the unexpected moments.

When we heard a group singing Forever in Portuguese in reverent worship. Walking streets that reminded me of New York. The stunning flowers and adorable cats (I was very tempted to take one home with me). The compliment that was paid to me by the Western Wall. The lovely dancing and feasting on Shabbat. Finding that the temple in Capernaum is LITERALLY next to Peter’s house, a place I had seen on screen so much but was actually in front of me. The Sea of Galilee. The interesting dream that I still haven’t made sense of yet. These are the parts of Israel that linger with me.

003. Every place is broken and has its beauty.

As wonderful as it was to walk the streets of Israel, going into the West Bank and the Gaza Strip really put the Israel-Palestinian conflict in perspective. Seeing the differences in Israel versus the West Bank illuminated the difficulty of the conflict there—real people are bearing the consequences.  

It’s easy to romanticize travel, but even in a place like NYC where I’m from, you can see both the beauty and the brokenness. To bear both is honest and true and necessary.

004. God is a lamenting God, and it’s one of his best qualities. 

If someone was asked about one of God’s best characteristics, I don’t think they’d say lament. And yet, that’s what I was hit with as I traveled through Israel. The Garden of Gethsemane. The Israel-Palestinian conflict. God weeps with those who weep, and we are invited to enter into the weeping. 

In a season where life is good, you may want to brush aside the bad, keep it from view. But in a season where life is hard, how kind the invitation to weep is! It reminded me of spring break, and learning that lament is one of the steps to reconciliation. Lament is not removed from the work of restoration, but actively a part of it. What a gift!

005. I do love me some personal space.

I am a hugger. Physical touch is my love language. Hugs are the way I give and receive love. However, there doesn’t seem to be a such thing as personal space where it come to queues/lines in Israel. People will push you and shove you out of the way. It isn’t seen as rude, but honestly, it was really awful. In some senses, I realized how American I was in Israel.

006. I have to let go of my image or my identity will crumble.

If I’m honest with myself, I hold my image up to a higher standard than it should be. There were times in Israel (that I don’t want to relive) in which I was embarrassed and dwelled on things way more than I should have. It made me realize that if I place my identity in what others think of me and the image that I choose to put forth in the world, when others think badly of me, I’ll crumble. 

We all struggle with that to a certain extent. Other people’s thoughts of you are not your problem, and they’re not your business. Your identity is so much greater than other people’s opinions.

007. Silence is necessary even as someone who loves people.

Israel was such a JAM PACKED trip.

We were up as early as 6 and went to bed as late as 1 (some nights). It was wild. Because we saw multiple sites every day for 9 days, the only time to really be alone was either in your hotel room (unless your roommate was with you) or on the bus. I definitely sat on the bus alone more often than not. I needed room to breathe. To journal. To just sit and glance out the window. To ponder. Not having time to process is one of my least favorite things.

008. I have to believe God loves me even if I don’t feel it. 

In a culture that is so focused on feelings and satisfying your desires immediately, it can be easy to make faith a more religious version of that. To participate in things only to get an emotional high or mountaintop experience. 

The struggle, then, appears when those feelings are gone. The truth of the matter is our feelings are important and give us information, but they don’t always tell us the truth. And the truth is I am loved. I just have a hard time believing it.

009. As I get older, my life has gotten more scheduled, and I have less spontaneity, which I now crave.

Given the very specific itinerary we had for the trip, I slowly realized how much my life had gotten to the point of being very scheduled out, living via my Google calendar. And the moments I love the most from college are the ones that I never would have planned for. The random worship night I was invited to. The trip to get bubble tea. The hopping into a car to get food. The play I saw. The bowling. There was just so much scheduled that it was actually magical to say yes to something in the moment. 

I want to do more of that in this next season of life. I’m not really sure how.

010. When you ask God to speak to you, be prepared to be confused and surprised.

I’m not really going to elaborate on this one, but I had a LOT of interesting dreams in Israel.

011. I’m scared of his abundance because I believe he won’t let me keep it.

When I wrote this down, I wish I knew what triggered this thought, this realization. But it’s true. There are plenty of things in my life that I wish lasted longer, people who I wished stayed longer. In pondering abundance, part of me wonders what’s the point if it’s not mine to hold forever. And don’t get me wrong—there are times in which something is meant for a season. But after four years of semester after semester of change, I want something that will last, something that will be sustained.

My Israel playlist–

I made this playlist up of all of the songs that popped into my head over my trip. Even though I didn’t really listen to anything while I was there, music was definitely on my mind. 

More highlights~

Hope this taught you a few things! Until next time…

Signing off,

Gigi

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