(This excerpt is from my Israel travel journals. As some of my good friends have traveled back to Israel this week and I am excitedly reading their updates, missing them and the land itself, I thought I’d type up some legible parts of my trip there two years ago. The following is my first arrival in Israel.)

It smells faintly of salt here. It’s 65 degrees and mostly sunny, which is a good 80-degree difference from where we started out in Minnesota. Our bus driver’s name is Hazim. Our guide is Hani.

“Welcome to the Promised Land,” Hani says when he meets us. “Welcome to the land that the Lord has chosen. Therefore, feel at home here. Welcome home!”

He tells us this, and I feel his words, literally feel them. I’m so tired, and I suddenly have tears in my eyes. But I do feel a strange tug from this place, something familiar. I’m trying to take it in, but there’s nothing I recognize by sight. Nothing looks familiar. Yet it all feels familiar. How strange. And wonderful.

We have a two-hour bus ride from the Tel Aviv airport to the hotel in Tiberius.Tel Aviv airport It’s 4:20 p.m., local. Hani tells us about the NIS, the New Israeli Sheckel. A sheckel is a measure of weight, he says. It’s a verb. We ask him how to say “Thank you” and “Thank you very much” and he helps us say these things in Hebrew as well as Arabic.

I’m thinking about the airport, and how it was made of sand-looking beige stones, from the walls to the floors. No carpet squares. Just stone everywhere. It was impressive. Around the airport now are palm trees and big water features.

We’re entering some rural-looking green fields. Hani tells us we’re on Highway 6, the Ancient Highway. DSC00318It quickly gets hilly, with the same beige rocks—Hani says limestone—covering the hillsides, as if the little bitty grass just eroded away.

Every so often, you see a dirt path winding between the bitty grass and the stones, and the dirt is pink. It looks dry, rose-colored. Not red like Georgia clay, but pink like sunset. We pass fruit trees in bloom with apricots? Oranges? [Mangoes, we were told later.]


Royal Plaza Hotel patio at TiberiusWe showered and ate and felt much better—like human beings again. And we had a drink outside the patio at night which was amazing—to walk out the open door in January and find the same temperature  outside as in. We laughed at Israeli TV, few channels but some in English, showing American movies. The bed was 2 small beds pushed together. Mine was perfect by Mom's Cam 045morning because I barely moved all night. The beds are very low to the ground, and are remarkably short on length, especially for myself and the Nordic people traveling with me. But the beds were certainly comfortable.

Breakfast today was a huge buffet, like dinner last night. For breakfast, I ate pickled fish, cheese, and grapefruit. Juices from taps were color-coded yellow, orange, and blue. And I made tea, which made me feel comfortable and happy. Breakfast of kings, of champions.

On the bus now, Hani tells us there are many basalt buildings here in Tiberius DSC00074because it’s a black volcanic rock and this area has many inactive volcanoes. The hillsides are pockmarked with caves on our left and the Sea of Galilee on our right.

It’s beautiful here. The whole place feels haunted, or somehow touched…


Jody Brown is the author of Upside Down Kingdom available on Amazon: dld.bz/bYuX4