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- by Halcyon Clark, Canada -

2017 was a year anticipated with excitement as I planned to celebrate my 50th birthday in the Holy Land. After decades of struggle and failure, I wanted to experience a reward of sorts, or Jubilee.

           The common answer to my desires was often, No.
           This time the doors opened with a Yes (Praise God!)
           My journey was planned to be quality time with Him,
                      and He did not disappoint. He used His people to bless me,
                                 and I traveled safely in the palm of His hand.

Upon arrival in Tel Aviv, I was first welcomed by Sunita and Fred Schlomka, having reserved a two night stay in their AirBnB. As a novice traveler, only English speaking, I was in need of their advice and was thankful for it. It was my honor to meet them and gain my first impression of Israel through them.

My journey continued to Jerusalem where I joined fellow Anglicans at St George's Anglican College and Cathedral. I participated in an Easter tour and study, with a group of travelers who quickly became friends. We made many miles (or km?) on their bus, and a few on foot, visiting the Old City, the Sea of Galilee, Jordan River and Jericho. Included on the itinerary were quite a few Orthodox churches at the holy sites, and some monasteries. It has remained a lifetime highlight and I revisit the experiences often in my memories, especially at Easter. All too soon the group time came to an end and I stayed on as a guest at St George's.

This is when my next adventure came, and I joined a Green Olive Tour of Bethlehem and Hebron. The profound experience of seeing, hearing, and feeling the pain of oppression has stayed with me since that tour. Hebron was the most depressing and hopeless place I have ever visited, and when I laid my hand on the wall at Bethlehem, the immovable concrete made me wonder; How many will come here before this wall comes down? One lovely memory from Hebron was being hosted for lunch by a family who cooked for us and shared their home and hearts with us.

On a positive note, our guides were very engaged with all of us, and are a credit to Green Olive Tours and their people. I was pleased to see so many young people participating and learning. If there is a message of hope, it was them. An emphasis on history is empowering a new generation into action, and the art and messages on the wall were both haunting and humorous. Such is the work of Green Olive Tours.

From there I continued on a solo tour of the Sea of Galilee and Nazareth, enjoying the generosity of Israeli/Palestinian people to their visitors, before returning to Tel Aviv and Canada.

Travel in general has reinforced a tidbit of wisdom I heard while in Israel/Palestine;

                      “Form your ideas carefully, and sit on them lightly”


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