Three days in Israel: The Single Traveler

Being single allows one time to take many adventures and we should take advantage of this time of greater freedom. Last year, I was blessed to travel to the Holy Land. This beautiful and incredibly small country had a profound impact on my faith and made the Bible truly come alive for me.
Day 1:
As I walked into the city of Jerusalem through the beautiful Jaffa Gate, one of the original entrances to the city, I heard a harpist playing beautiful and haunting music. It brought me back to the time of David, the Old Testament hero who fought the giant and played the harp. This is right near the Tower of David. I often think of David and ask him to intercede for me for courage. We all face different giants in our lives. I am also a musician, a violinist, a fact which also makes me feel an affinity for David.

Anyone spending time in Israel should spend a considerable amount of time in the old section of Jerusalem. This city is so compact, but history comes alive here. One can enter the city and travel to see the Wailing Wall. The Wailing Wall is what remains of the second temple. Traditional Jews hurry here at sundown on the Sabbath. But during the week, they also come here to pray, as they feel closest to God in this spot. The lines are divided. Men are on the left and women are on the right. I stepped in the line for the women on the right. Finally, I was whisked up to the actual wall. I did pray to God here, I prayed to God Our Father here and I did stick a note in the wall in the same way the Jews did. I felt fortunate as a Catholic because we know that God is within us and also present in the Eucharist.

Jerusalem is broken up into many different sections. You have the Islamic Quarter, the Christian Quarter, and the Armenian Quarter, among others. You can find some fascinating shops here in Israel, with religious statues carved of olive wood, incense, beautiful Armenian pottery, lovely silk scarves, wonderful Arab sweets and confections, cafes with mint tea and fresh pomegranate juice, kebabs, shops with carpets.

If one travels to Jerusalem, one should definitely spend time on the Way of the Cross. The Via Dolorosa is a very narrow pathway and very long. This would have been the route Jesus took as He carried His cross. It is an arduous path, quite narrow, with hills and valleys. Jesus travelled a long distance on the Via Dolorosa. I often think of him on this journey, the beautiful virtue of fortitude and love that Jesus showed for us by taking up His cross.

Day 2:
Perhaps the holiest site in Jerusalem is the Church of the Holy Sepulcre. The Church of the Holy Sepulcher dates from the 4th century. It was built by St. Helen. The Via Dolorosa ends at this Church. This Church houses the tomb of Our Lord, the site of the Crucifixion, as well as the stone where Our Lord was anointed upon His death. Staffed by many Orthodox Priests, this site moved me to tears. Pilgrims light many long slender candles near the site of the Crucifixion. It made me chuckle to see the Orthodox priests grabbing a bunch of these lit candles all at once to blow them out in order to make room for the new candles. Seemed like a dangerous job to me. I wanted to spend quite a bit more time here, but another aspect of this church is that there are always enormous crowds here so it is difficult to pray. When I was in this church, I was struck by a huge painting of Christ the King painted on one of the ceilings. It made me contemplate again, how truly Christ is King of the Universe, is in control of everything.

The Mount of Olives is a hill that overlooks Jerusalem. Here on this mount, one can find Gethsemane, with some of the same original olive trees that would have been here when Our Lord experienced His agony in the garden. Some of the trees are huge, winding, with large branches. Traditionally, this garden housed an olive press. Jesus would have come here often.

Day 3:
I also recommend visiting other places, including Nazareth and Bethehem, but also the desert outside of Jerusalem and the Dead Sea. The desert outside of Jerusalem is beautiful and quite near to the city. One could see how Christ would have been easily able to walk there. When I was there, it was quite common to see Bedouin shepherds tending their sheep. This was a beautiful site. You could also see many Bedouins, who lived in tents across the desert. This is the same desert where Our Lord would have been when he spent forty days in the desert before the start of His ministry.

The Dead Sea is another natural wonder in this amazing country. The water is amazing. One can float because the salt content is so high. The mud in the Dead Sea is very therapeutic. But, if you go to the Dead Sea, enjoy the water, but do not dunk your head in the water as I watched one gentleman find out to his horror. It will burn your eyes and you have to wash your eyes out right away. As I was enjoying the Dead Sea with the group I was with, I was reminded of the conflict that has been ongoing in Israel. As I lay on the beach, I thought to myself, what is that sign over there, so close to me. It said danger, landmines. That was a bit unsettling.

Ah, Israel, a land of many contrasts, but a beautiful one and one well worth seeing. You will view your faith in a completely new way after travel to this amazing land.

by Stephanie Klatt