Thursday, December 24, 2009

To the Sea

(Day 2 continues)

After our trip to Masada, but before we dipped our feet into the Jordan in the wilderness, we stopped at what is known as Cave #4 in Qumran. The most significant find of all the Dead Sea Scrolls was done here. And, if you are watching videos or looking at photographs about the Dead Sea Scrolls, this cave is the one most photographed.

After Qumran and our Jordan River experience, we headed up to the Galilee region. We rambled along for some time ... a few of us chattered ... a few of us slept. Cheri was sleeping so hard, she actually missed the excitement of coming out of the West Bank via checkpoint.

One of the places Miriam has always wanted to take a group of writers was to the grave of Israel's beloved "Rachel the poetess." So loved are her works, her headstone has a special place to sit, retrieve some of her works, and read them by her final resting place -- which is next to the Sea of Galilee.

Miriam was getting her wish. We were heading toward the Sea and the grave.

As soon as I saw the blue water sparkling in the late afternoon sun, I reached over the back of the front seat, placed my hand on Larry's shoulder and said, "Hey, Larry! You're at the Sea of Galilee." (This would end up being something I did a lot to Larry ... "Hey, Larry ... you're at the Dead Sea ... Hey Larry, you're in Jerusalem ... Hey, Larry ... you're in Israel."

Before walking into the cemetery in Kinneret, we jaunted across the street to watch Christian pilgrims decked out in flowing white robes as they were baptized in at Yardenit (the part of the Jordan at the mouth of the Sea of Galilee).

I'm not sure what everyone else was thinking, but I couldn't help but compare our very private moments at the water in southern Israel to what seemed almost commercialized. Then again, not everyone -- I thought -- gets a private IDF escort through mine fields to the water's edge and not everyone can understand the spiritual implications of what I just wrote.

We left our places at the bridge overlooking the baptisms and into the cemetery. It had been raining before we'd arrived. The ground was spongy. The air cool. The sky darkening. The Sea of Galilee lapped at the shoreline nearby as we, canopied under thick trees, made our way to the grave, walking behind Miriam -- our mother (Ema) duck. A breeze rustled the palm fronds as Miriam sat by the grave honored with small stones. We, her students (ducklings), sat across from the grave and watched as she opened the small compartment holding texts, then listened intently as she read to us.

I watched Miriam's face intently. This was a moment for her. Miriam, as gifted a writer as anyone I know, reading words that stirred not only her heart, but the heart of a nation ... not only a nation's heart, but our hearts as well.

Earlier in the day -- having left Ein Gedi -- we each penned our own thoughts, moved as David must have been moved to write some of his great psalms of praise to God. When Miriam had finished reading, I said, "Now it is time to take out what you wrote today and read."

Each of us read ... words so beautiful! Mine went thusly:

I look back at where I've been.
The heights. The valleys.
And I think that you knew all along.
You see where I am. And you see where I am going;
it is no mystery to you.
So why then do I fear?
Do the conies shudder?
Do the ibex stand on unsteady feet?
Do they run along well-worn paths with care?
They seek the safety of the rock with confidence and there they find God.

When everyone had read (Ellie had written a special song to Robi, which nearly ripped my heart out), and had cried enough to fill the sea beside us to overflowing, we stood. We took a few photographs as best we could in the near-darkness. Then we returned to the van where Tzvika awaited to take us to our next destination.

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