In February 2011 my husband, Luke, and I boarded a flight from the USA bound for Tel Aviv. After 11 hours in the air we arrived in the Middle East. We had dreamed of making this pilgrimage for most of our lives. The thought of walking in the footsteps of Jesus, King David and the prophets gave me chills. This would be an inspiring visit to the birthplace of the world’s three major religions.
We left behind 15 beehives on our small farm in Indiana. Weather reports predicted a rare warm spell for the Midwest giving us an opportunity to peek inside the boxes to determine how many colonies had made it through the winter. But that task would have to wait until we returned home a week later. I prayed that we would at least lay eyes on some of the native bees of Israel while we were there.
It didn’t take long for our first sighting. It happened while exploring the ruins of Caesarea on the Mediterranean Sea the next day. The other tourists must have thought we were crazy snapping pictures of insects while they were busy lining up the perfect shot of the engineering wonder of the roman aqueduct. But they soon got used to our enthusiasm and gained a whole new perspective of this country through our eyes.
The capitol city of Jerusalem was a two day affair. While there we admired such places as the Upper Room, the Western Wall, and the Dome of the Rock Mosque. My legs ache just remembering walking the hilly ground of the old city along the route of the Via Delarosa or the way of the cross. Thankfully the next day’s walking was downhill. A short bus ride took us to the top of the Mount of Olives where we enjoyed a camel ride before descending past the Jewish cemetery and through the Garden of Gethsemane just outside the city gates.
It was then I began to wonder why this place was referred to numerous times in the Bible as a land flowing with milk and honey. After all I had only seen one bee so far and that had been three days ago. Almost as if on cue a honeybee buzzed past my ear. God’s creation was speaking to me. This was but one of many little miracles that occurred while experiencing the holy land.
During the remaining three days we stood atop Mount Carmel and saw Nazareth but unfortunately never got to walk in its streets. We toured the Holocaust Museum but ran out of time before getting to the museum where the restored scrolls of antiquity were housed. We marveled at the massive stone columns still standing in the town of Capernaum and the national park at Bet She’an. We stared in awe at the intricate mosaic tiles on the floors in the church at Tabgha. Along the way our favorite bugs were always present. They were there dancing between wild red poppies blooming at Megiddo. They were abundant when we ascended to the top of the Mount of Beatitudes to get a spectacular view of the Sea of Galilee. And they made themselves known along the Jordan River where we stopped to buy handmade wood carvings made from the area’s olive trees.
Our final day was spent driving across the dessert, seeing the Bedouins as they herded flocks of sheep and goats just as they have done for centuries. We viewed the caves at Qumran, rode the cable car to the fortress of Masada, and relaxed by floating in the mineral rich waters of the Dead Sea. Regretfully, we didn’t make it into Bethlehem or Jericho.
With spirits renewed and minds full of precious memories we left with a slight feeling of sadness. As a consolation we would take back hundreds of pictures, a few souvenirs and seven containers of sweet honey. On the long flight back we planned our return trip – someday.
Dozens of questions from family and friends greeted us back home. My best advice to them was to go and not be afraid. Go and meet the friendly people there. Go and be immersed in the history and culture. But be sure to allow plenty of time when you do. Six days just isn’t long enough to do it justice.
Oh, and if you plan to bring back any eucalyptus or date palm honey make sure to pack plenty of Ziploc bags. I found out the hard way that pressure changes during air travel tend to pop the seals on jar lids. I had a sticky mess on my hands when it came time to unpack our suitcases. A sweet, finger-licking good mess to be sure, but a mess all the same.
About the Author: Stacey Pauley is an American healthcare worker who enjoys the simple life of farm living caring for lots of animals both domestic and wild. She loves beekeeping, growing orchids, writing, painting, quilting and photography.
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