Usually when we visit a country ( or two) we tour the sights, learn some history, and enjoy the people and food. Yes, we did all those important things in Israel and Jordan but this trip was so much more.
First of all, both guides were stellar, especially Ibrahim who did so much more than required. He dealt with all that bad timing had to give him, and came up with alternatives— wonderful alternatives time and time again. He really enjoys his job ( or this group, perhaps as he told us) and put his heart into every minute.
Exploring Israel from a religious, cultural and political viewpoint gave us a sense of understanding and belonging that we hadn’t had before. Wendy was a bit envious of the birthright groups we mingled with in Jerusalem— late teens who take an extensive sojourn into the land of their heritage and deepen their connections to Judaism on whatever level they choose to take it. She hopes our grandchildren will take advantage of this incredible program when the time comes. This was our own birthright program, albeit 50 years later with the advantage of time and perspective.
It was also a pathway to understanding the geography and deep historical conflicts in the Middle East. Jordan is a buffer land in the middle of chaos, surrounded on all sides by nations that hold varying degrees of anger towards Israel. It has to constantly walk on eggshells to protect its borders and deal patiently with its neighbors. We hope it can successfully continue that path.
The Israeli-Arab conflict, especially In Jerusalem will not be resolved anytime soon, certainly not within our lifetime. We now have to hope that future generations will learn to temper and respect their differences without going to war over them.
Although we never actually heard this exquisite song by Naomi Shemer sung ( nor Ha Tikvah, the national anthem, for that matter) at anytime during our journey, it represents the fortitude, the yearning for peace and the beauty of Israel:
Yerushalayim shel zahav, veshel nechoset veshel ohr,
Halo lechal shirayich ani kinor
Jerusalem of good, of bronze and light
I am the violin for all your songs,