This sentence should accompany us for 5 days like a mantra. 5 short days spent in the Holy Land. Too short for all the thousands of years of history, the countless stories of the Old Testament, on whose actual settings we have found ourselves, the religious sensitivities and energies that can be seen and felt everywhere, the entanglements between religion, land and retaliation…but above all much too short for beautiful breathtaking landscapes, incredible friendly and open people, delicious food and a climate that immediately makes you forget the German winter.
Tel Aviv – the city that never stops…. The beach promenade welcomes us on a Sunday, a working day, with bubbly life. Walkers, joggers, bodybuilders, tourists…Everyone is looking for the sun and the sea and enjoying a coffee on the beach. Here, as in the countless cafes, the real life seems to take place. Also Jaffa, once a sad suburb of Tel-Aviv, which is today a living artists’ colony, invites you to stay. After visiting the Ilana Goor Museum, which is definitely worth a visit, we would have loved to stroll through the small winding alleys and let ourselves drift. But instead we continue to the Carmel market. Halva, Tahini, Israeli Craft beer, Hummus, Falafel and fried egg in the Pita… We feast on the most different tastes, smells, noises and are part of the pulsating market life.
A trip to Israel usually causes one of two reactions of the conversation partner. “How nice, I’ve always wanted to go there” or “What? You can’t go there, it’s absolutely too dangerous”. And yes, you think about it in advance. But the immigration at the airport is surprisingly easy. Even at the hotel there is no luggage control, as I know it from other countries of the middle and Near East. And also, the coming days there is actually no military or police to be seen. It feels like any other holiday region – normal, safe…
I am curious whether this will change when we reach Jerusalem, the golden city. But no. The street scene is changing: all buildings are made of the same limestone and thus convey a calmer, more beautiful street scene – but not a trace of military presence. If one has seen a few men with Kippa in Tel Aviv, the number here is increasing rapidly. In addition, there are the Orthodox Jews, the rabbis, the Greek Orthodox priests, the Muslims, the Armenian Christians… It feels like you have been transported back in time. Our guide tries her best to bring us closer to the history of several thousand years in a few days. We jump between Canaanites, Greeks, Israelites, Romans, Byzantines, Muslims, Crusaders, Mamelukes, Ottomans, the British and back again. About 8,000 years of history and stories. Destruction and reconstruction in constant change, conquest and abandonment, war and peace…the view of the Wailing Wall, the Dome of the Rock and the Mosque Al Aqusa Mosque on the Temple Mount controlled by Muslims and therefore not accessible cause goose bumps. And yes, it is complicated! And nevertheless, if you stroll through the old town, which is divided into four, you quickly feel that Christians, Muslims, Jews and Armenians get along peacefully here. A store-owner sums it up: “Not the people are the problem – the politicians are”.
The next day turns out to be intense as well. The drive takes us through a scree desert, Bedouin area, to Massada, a fortress of King Herod on a rock plateau, where we experience pure history – last fortress in the Jewish revolt against the Romans, which fell 73 a.c. after a long siege. Afterwards an obligatory swim at the Dead Sea. And then, as an unforgettable experience, a jeep safari into the desert. Anyone who thought that a gravel desert was boring was mistaken. Fairytale-like rock formations in the evening light enchant us, the rapid professional driving style of our guide brings roller coaster feeling and much joy, the unbelievable knowledge of these “desert men” impresses and makes humble….and most importantly: we understand that the differentiation in “Jew or Arab” has no meaning to these people. The human being is what counts.
On the last evening we receive worried messages from those at home. Rocket fire in Eilat, attack of a Palestinian in Tel Aviv… This is affecting us. Thoughtful. Sad. Angry. And yet: this country with its long history, its rich culture, its incredible people is definitely worth a trip. I will come back – and then certainly longer than only 5 days.