I decided a couple of days ago that I couldn't put off a huge job any longer.
Back in 1198 Nigel and I made the trip of a lifetime - a visit to Israel for a tour of the Holy Land. Even then we were a little nervous and I feel that the situation in the Middle East is even more volatile now and we wouldn't contemplate doing what we did then. It was an amazing experience and one I am so pleased we shared.
I had wanted to go to Israel for as long as I can remember, but i was also very nervous about it because I feared I would hate to see modern churches and touristy things on what I believed to be sacred sites. I was worried I would hate it - and yes there were a couple of bits that as a theology graduate were a tad irritating - but ont he whole it was everything I hoped it would be and little of what I feared. We had a few hairy moments - more on that in another post - but it was such a good trip.
We had photography nightmares there. Our video camera broke on the first day at the first stop. I was devastated but maybe it was for the best and the Lord's way of saying record it with your hearts not with the video. See it for real not in black and white through a camera. I had no camera and Nigel was, of course in 1998, using a proper SLR; no digital cameras then. Consequently the photos are not necessarily the sort of pictures we would take today and, coupled with that, I am ashamed to say I have let them deteriorate. They were well stuck into two old fashioned sticky back photo albums ... death for photographs and one of the reasons why scrapbooking is so important - to preserve these precious items in an acid free environment. For a long time I have wanted to take them out and scrap the journey properly but it seemed like such a huge task. I took one of the albums apart, taking out all of the photos and postcards and ephemera. the other remains in tact.
At the weekend I decided it had to be done so I have started and made some good headway - and feel free to ignore these bits in posts for the next few weeks as I will be documenting the trip and the pages so I have it recorded on my blog too. Feel free to take the journey with me but also feel free to skip it entirely. I promise not every post will be as Israel heavy as this one will be.
I opted to use an 81/2" x 11" landscape album I had kept and treasured. It was always my favourite size and I cannot get them any longer. It seems to work well for travel pages for me. I plan to keep the pages simple and not to have too much journalling as I have a 42 page A4 typed journal of the trip that I made when we returned, documenting everything and how we felt about it all at the time, so that will sit alongside the album which will be a photographic record. The photos are not great and I know I will not love many of the pages as I would have liked more stunning pictures, but it is what it is and it is the memories that matter. It is about recording those not just making lush pages. (You can see I am preparing you for the fact it is not going to be good!)
I apologise for the poor photos where they look a bit wonky but I had already slotted the pages into the page protectors and it didn't lend itself well to photography.
This is the title page
and this is the introduction page - a photo taken on the shores of the Dead Sea
We were fairly sure we would be on a coach for the tour. It was an organised tour - no way would we have done this trip on our own. We flew into Tel Aviv and the tour operator said we would be collected at the airport. Sure enough there was a man with our name on a card and we went out to a waiting cab. It was very odd as we seemed to drive for ages through deserted areas and back streets and wasteland. We held hands in the back of the cab, sure we were being abducted but eventually we pulled up at a very nice hotel. We were eager for the next day to come so that we could start the tour proper.
We were being collected at 6.30 am (this was not a lazy stay abed holiday but each day was packed full) and expected a coach to appear. It didn't - a mini bus came instead and we assumed the mini bus was taking us to the coach collection point. We couldn't have been more wrong or more pleasantly surprised. The mini bus was IT ... our tour bus ... and for most of the trip there was just us and a lovely lady called Kath from New Zealand who we still keep in touch with. Our guide was Modi and he was superb. We spent a week with him and he was so knowledgeable. He spoke fluent English, Hebrew and Arabic, was a History and Archaeology graduate and he went above and beyond - we saw much more than the tour originally promised.
Our first stop was the university town of Haifa, where Modi had studied, and we visited the Shrine of the B'ab, the center of the Baha'i faith. We knew nothing about the faith, the shrine or the area but learnt a great deal and it was beautiful.
It is another page with a stitched pocket for the brochure - I feel there will be a lot of these.
From there we went to Acre/Akko which was a fascinating old city with a unique history. One of the places we visited was the old Crusader city. On top of ruins they had built a succession of buildings including a Turkish prison. A prisoner digging to try and escape lead to the discovery of ruins beneath the prison including a huge and very beautiful crypt - the Crypt of St John.
The embellishments on the page echo the Fleur de lis on the columns unearthed and the keys I made echo the fact it was, at one time, a prison.
Lunch that day - no pictures .. no page ... was an odd experience and was eaten surrounded by Israeli soldiers complete with machine guns and a great deal of laughter! Food was to be a challenge for me in Israel.
We headed to Safed/Zefat next. another ancient city and the small twisty streets were a joy to walk round. We also visited a very small, very old, very beautiful synagogue there. It was also the site of the Miracle of Safed - the defeat of 6000 Arab soldiers by 35 Israeli soldiers in 1948.
The weather had brightened up, but as we made our way across the Jordan and up Mount Bental it started to drizzle and became cold and foggy. We did the walk up to the top, looking over the barbed wire across the valley to Syria and it blew a gale and was cold and dark and then the hail started and we were just waiting for the plague of locusts. Once back down the weather was glorious and the Israeli sun was warm.
So, a start has been made and a lot of work to do, but I shall feel happy once the story is told in a scrapbook album. I promise there wont be posts this long about Israel everyday, but be prepared for scrapbook pages.
Today we went to Helen's and played at printing some cool t shirts. She really has an incredible set up and can print and embroider so many wonderful things. If you are local I can whole-heartedly recommend her.
Like many people yesterday we were fascinated by the orange yellow foggy glow the day had - apparently caused by Hurricane Ophelia picking up the Sahara sand. It was very odd and there was an apocalyptic feel to it.
Today I am thankful for
- fun with a friend
- a cool new t shirt - will take a picture one day!
- the garden sorted for winter - furniture away and pine needles collected (a zillion more to go but at least you can see the lawn is almost green now!