Israel-The Kindness of Strangers

“Those who wander are never lost”

I never made it to Jerusalem. I honestly believe I wasn’t supposed to . I travel to learn things I don’t know, to witness things and try to understand what they mean. I went to Israel to learn about Judaism, a religion I know little about. What happened to me made that possible.

Our tour bus stopped in the Golan Heights near the Lebanon and Syria borders. I took a picture of the UN jeep and wished I had the opportunity to take pictures of the military equipment being transported along the the highway.

I climbed a little incline and this was the last picture I took before the incident.

As I came down from this little hill, I slipped on the gravel and my rear end landed on my foot. I tried to get up and and felt no support. The nice people from my tour gathered around me. Somehow I got my foot from under me and saw that my foot was at a strange right angle from the leg bone that was a large knot at the end of my shin. My guide, who was very upset asked no one in particular if if my foot was broken. The anthesialogic member from the tour group replied in the affirmation. His wife asked what level of pain I was in. I picked 3 and she replied that I was at least a 5.

I honestly felt nothing. I was embarrassed by all the attention and wanted the crowd around me to resume walking to the observation area. All my life I’ve had the ability to go into a state of numbness when needed. I’m an adult child of an alcoholic. Denial of situations and circumstances is a skill perfected by ACOAs like me. We trained ourselves to move through the awful stuff. The bad part of this is we smile through a lot of garbage. The good part is that we are very resilient.

Our tour guide called an ambulance. As the attendants lifted me up onto a gurney, I warned them that they were dealing with a woman who was not petite and cautioned them not to hurt themselves. I also asked the driver if we could stop for ice cream on the way to the hospital. Self- deprecation and humor have become my adult tools for dealing with life. They’ve became more pronounced as I grow older since I ‘m no longer the shy child I used to be.

I was rolled into the ambulance. I looked up and saw a smiling young man who said, “When I saw you I prayed you’d be American.”

What? From my prone position, as I tried to move my good foot so it wasn’t touching the injured one, I was totally confused.

“Hi.” was all I could come up with.

The attendant was glad I was American because he wanted to practice his English. I thought he spoke well and he told me he had learned much from watching American television. We ended up talking a lot and as a result I came to know about his fascinating religion.

This wonderful young man was a Druze. The Druze broke off from Islam in the 10th century and see themselves as a monotheistic religion that combines Judaism and Christianity with Islam. They strongly believe in reincarnation and accept no converts. Only individuals who achieve a specific spiritual enlightenment are able to be a part of the group and read Druze literature. They have no set ceremonies but eating pork, smoking and drinking are prohibited. 120,000 Druze live in Northern Israel. They speak Arabic but are a community distinct from other Israeli Arabs and serve their required time in the Israeli army.

Before my mishap we had driven through a Druze settlement and I was able to take this picture of a Druze woman.

The young man was kind and he told me he wanted be a doctor. I assured him be would be an excellent one.

I arrived at The Ziv Medical Center in Zefat, Israel and did the usual, met with the billing department, explained what happen, had blood work. I was then taken to a little room filled with people who turned out to be be medical students. As they stared at my broken foot, I told them I was very glad I got a pedicure before I left America or they would have been appalled by my ugly old lady toenails. They laughed. The real doctor didn’t seem amused. My leg was numbed and he proceed to twist my ankle bone back into my leg. I squeezed the young female medical student’s hand. A very heavy plaster cast was put on my leg and I was transported to x-ray. The bone wasn’t placed right. The cast was taken off, the bone repositioned once again as I squeezed the same girl’s hand, then more x-rays and success. One more trip to the little room and time for pictures.

I had to stay overnight but what a wonderful experience it was. I was sung to.

I was visited by a female rabbi. She came into my hospital room like a superhero dressed in a stylish black outfit, so powerful in her convictions. She seemed to give off an energy and almost glowed. She preached about the sanctity of marriage and I didn’t have the heart or the courage to tell her I was divorced and had no plans of ever getting married again. Strangely enchanted, I somehow knew I was supposed to put money in the yellow silk bag she carried. She said a blessing over me and I asked if I could take a picture of her. She wouldn’t allow it, saying that what she said was more important than who she was.

Michelle was sent from the tour company to watch over me and make sure I was okay. She became a friend and I will have more to tell about her in my next post. A lady entered my room and chatted. She gave me two candles for Shabbat, the Jewish weekly day of worship. One candle represents the the obligations of worship from sundown on Friday to the morning sunrise on Saturday. The other candle represented the joy and benefits of these special hours spent in God’s presence.


The candle lady and my friend, Michelle.

So much kindness. I never cried during the whole adventure until just before I left. The medical student who held my hand while I went through orthopedic torture brought me a chocolate bar and the note shown below.

The kindness of strangers is why I travel. I’ve been lucky enough to find the true spirit of human beings untainted by personal preference or prejudice. They are encounters with no time to gossip or label or judge. People reaching out to live and love in the present moment with smiles and acceptance. Our exchanges are fresh and alive without fear. This is the beautiful world.

I broke my ankle in The Golan Heights near the Lebanon/ Syrian border and never got to Jerusalem but I got exactly the journey I was suppose to have.

“We travel, some of us forever,to seek other places, other lives, other souls.”-Anais Nin

Copyright 2020 @theautonomoustraveler.com All rights reserved.

Israel-The Temple of Pan and the Dancing Goats

How so very strange to have old memories that go way back in time to rooms with high windows and desks in rows and the smell of chalk. How peculiar to conjure up visions and facts about myths and Zeus and Greek gods. How startling to suddenly find myself in the very concrete place of their essence. My guide said we were going to the Temple of Pan. As a tourist, I surrender myself to be led to new places and new things. Pan? Pan was a drawing from an eighth grade textbook, a man with the features of a goat. He was creature who played some sort of flute and represented the wild, nature, fertility, mischief, and spring. He wasn’t real but something very vivid I had memorized for the test on mythology at the end of a chapter.

The setting was right. We walked along the edge of the water. A fitting place for a wild creature of the outdoors. It turned out to be a spring, the source of the River Jordan. I was enchanted.

We climbed.

And we came upon something huge and impressive, the remains of the Sanctuary of Pan.

Related image

How surreal on that blue sky, amber lit day to so clearly witness what was left of 19 BC place of worship built by the Herod to honor Caesar Alexander and the Roman gods.

The cave to The Underworld

The Romans of this time worshiped many different gods, almost all with a connection to nature. Their practices were pagan and by today’s standards very crude.

I wonder, now that I am back home in supposedly a civilized modern environment , was God at The Sanctuary of Pan. I was taught during my Catholic upbringing that God is everywhere and has been since the beginning of time. If an old woman, just like me, had sat by the the spring that fed The Jordan River back then in 19BC, would God be with her or would He decide she didn’t count because she didn’t worship in the right way?

I wonder about the ancient Native Americans who said prayers of thankfulness instead petitions of want. Was God with them or did He think they were too primitive?

I wonder about my Muslim friend in India, Rashid, who told me we are are all united by the God who created us all. Is God with him or has He chosen to dismiss Rashid’s method of worship?

I wonder about my gay friends who have lovingly married their partners. Is God with them or is He withholding His love because of their love?

I wonder about people in other political groups or countries. Is God with them or is God a political creature who takes sides?

I wonder about myself, an old lady without a religion who has done a lot of bad things and will probably do more. Is God with me or has He given up because He sees me as unworthy?

Like the old lady who sat by the source of The Jordan river before the birth of Christ, I, too, look for God.

In the stillness, I find Him. He is always here. He is with me. He chooses to be with us no matter who we are.

Copyright@ 2020 The Autonomous Traveler All rights reserved.