Three weeks in the Galilee and in Jaffa/Tel Aviv. I wanted to travel slow and to stay close to the sea. During the days around Christmas and New Year 2016, I attended a 10 day silent retreat at a vipassana center close to the Sea of Galilee.
Watching birds flying from north to south over the Jordan valley, I was wondering if my wings are going to take me back to this place again. So hard for me to imagine that in recent decades and still today the idea of enmity and hate is so pronounced and constantly manifesting itself in our thoughts, words and deed . My wish to walk the path for peace and to constantly be a honest voice for peace did grow with every day in silence. And still I knew, I am only at the beginning, learning, and trying to understand. The silence in the Galilee was opening my heart; I hope words will open our hearts in the future, too.
Where did Josef come from?
Nazareth is a place I knew from biblical stories, Christmas plays and from church services. I was curious to see the place and its people. A place that was home for Jesus' parents Maria and Josef. Who was Joseph? After the retreat, I took a bus to Nazareth. It was a cold night, already dark. From what I could see through fogged up windows, was that the architecture of houses and mosques were interesting to me. From what I saw, it seems each house had its own character. When I exited the bus a nearby electricity wire was sparking for a moment. It was a cold night. I found a hostel to stay. A place very close to the Basilica of Annunciation, Mary's church. The hostel was unique and the young lovely Maronite couple were great hosts. My heart felt my Bavarian souls and long parts of the evening with guests from Canada and Russia, we were exchanging music ideas on youtube.
Nazareth is surrounded by hills. I had one day before going to Tel Aviv via Haifa. On top of one of the hills there is a mosque and I saw church towers. Maybe I could walk up in the afternoon, I thought. The Basilica is a massive building. Visitors enter the yard around the church through a gate. The motives of a sailing boat and a harp -- navigation and music -- are motive at the side entrance. It speaks to me. For some reason, the water was almost exploding and jumping up my fingers when I touched the water basin when entering. The church has two level. The lower part, with the chapel of Mary's annunciation is wide and dark, kept strong. I was wondering how people are able to keep the strong energy balanced at this place, when sitting down next to a quite Franciscan monk. The upper church was brighter, with motives from around the world, blessing Mother Mary. Was thinking of my grandmother Mary. Why do we wait for Jesus to come back? What if every child is Jesus? There is more to learn and to understand about power, gender and justice. I sat and listened silently. A pain walked up my skull to the crown of my head, I was frightened. I sat quietly and waited till the pain was gone.
Learning from a plastic weapon
Before entering the church, I bought a few crosses to bring back to Germany. I also passed a place selling toys on the street. I picked up a plastic machine gun and felt a sudden ager arising in me. Was it the memories of my time in the army or the latest news of a shooting in Tel Aviv? I don't know. I just touched with the back end of the toy -- the thing you put on your shoulder when shooting -- the vendor's table and a plastic piece broke and ruined the product. Now I was in trouble. The man selling the product started talking to me. I talked back and complained about selling weapons and his responsibility of what we give to our children. He explained to me, that children want things and we need to make them happy -- a little boy just walked a way with a new plastic dagger in his hand and a smile on his face. I felt not understood. I was not in a mood to start a discussion and payed for the toy to then put it part by part and piece by piece in the next trash bin. This all happened only a few steps away from the Basilica's entrance. I felt bad watching the man's face saddening. At the same time I wanted him to understand that we all should care for what we do. And I felt angry. I apologized since I didn't mean to destroy anything. When returning to Nazareth the year after, he changed his products focusing more on arrow and bows and hunting rifles. He even sold an Austrian product that has the same weight and massiveness of a real gun. He recognized me again, we smiled, and we were shaking hands again.
Less weight, more love
Walking around Nazareth was not easy for me. And I could not walk up hill. I just couldn't. Instead, a man showed me the house of a famous Oud player (see as an example for the music the The Secret Trio). An Oud is a mandolin like string instrument. The musician wasn't at home. There was a little church, called Christ Church on my way. When entering and sitting down I felt the heaviness on my shoulders leaving into the ground. I felt relieved for whatever reasons. The sun was shining directly to the place I was sitting at this moment. It felt good to me. This country, I thought, is a place of many many wise people, why is there not a political institution, such as the council of wise people, who are discussing political issues in a way that is not based on majorities and power. Maybe there is one, and I just don't know. I left Nazareth with all this impressions. A bus took me to Haifa. Leaving Nazareth I saw a Statue of Liberty and felt some pain of hoping to be back in the U.S., somehow again. A bird wants to come back to places he felt love.
In Haifa, at the train station, there was fresh air and a feeling of breathing freely.
The wish gate
Staying in Florentine, a neighborhood in Tel Aviv, filled my heart with happiness and love. I found signs of love almost at any corner -- I also wanted to; I needed it. In my own little story, I wanted to free Andromeda, a beautiful princess from Greek mythology, chained on the rock next to the Jaffa port entrance. There is no need to hold love chained for years and years. It was good to see how cultures can inspire each other when living together and starting to speak one language, using different words. I went to pray in the St. Peter church in Jaffa, a synagogue in Florentine and a mosque near the Perez Peace House. I talked to a silver smith, musicians and bought a table. The ten commandments, and a series of pictures symbolizing peace, faith and health, found in Michal Meron's art gallery (https://www.michalmeron.com/) are also now at my place in Berlin. What are the common roots we share? Believing in the same principles of justice, peace and honesty is unique to all of us.
Walking around old town Jaffa is refreshing and inspiring. Napoleon was there and Egyptian traders. It has been connecting point between cities and coastal routs for centuries. Free movement is not possible at the moment, as much as I wanted to cross the wish bridge, it wasn't possible -- it was under construction. The wish gate is on top of the Jaffa hill. Pass it and your wish will become true. My wish is peace in the world. This wish is spoken out on the Jaffa hill, next to the sea. Again and again.
This time in Israel, I wanted to find places that offer a shelter and a balanced harmony. I stayed close to the ocean in Tel Aviv, finding what I wanted to find. I was surprised by Nazareth and its energies, knowing I wanted to come back to find the path uphill and to see the architecture in this area again. I still wanted to know who was Jesus's father Josef. I didn't learn much. I also hoped that I could help Andromeda to free herself from her chains. There is no need to hide beauty from light. I was hoping to come back again.