Why Go? What’s
Some common-sense reasons to visit the Holy Land.
By Doug Koop
Nowhere else in the world can you board
a boat on the Sea of Galilee and float
where Jesus once walked.
The Holy Land is fascinating and people from every generation flock to it as sure- ly as water flows to a low spot. What is it that makes this part of the globe so alluring? Is it the palpable presence of important history that per- vades the place? Yes indeed. Is it the
sense of spirituality that seems to saturate the very soil
in this land that hosted the birth of three of the world’s
great religions? For many visitors that’s the main point.
Is it because past, present and future seem to coalesce
in some special way in this spot? That is true as well.
While the charm of the Mediterranean Middle East may
seem to focus on ancient times, the experience of travelling
in biblical lands is very much a matter of the here and now.
It offers a smorgasbord of sensations that serves to connect
the inspiring events of days gone by with a wide range of
the beliefs and aspirations of people today.
And for North Americans it’s rather exotic, a whole
lot of fun and surprisingly safe.
So what’s it like to be a visitor in the country that
stands squarely in the crossroads of civilizations?
Let’s begin with a sampling of sounds and smells. You
will become very aware of the sounds of the street. The cit-
ies of Israel are bustling places where shiny new vehicles
jostle with more ancient conveyances, where buses and
taxis ferry crowds of pedestrians in an unrelenting cac-
ophony of markets and movement, and where prayer calls
from mosques and the chanting of pilgrims will make it
evident you’re not in Calgary anymore.
Your nostrils will be awakened as well. At one moment
you may be breathing in the serenity of the Garden
Tomb, an oasis of green space just outside the city wall
of Old Jerusalem. In the next you will re-enter the commotion of a diesel-fumed bus stop.
The scents of incense and spices permeate the
marketplaces. You can savour the sweet tang of citrus
in groves found throughout the country, and sniff the
musty and dusty odours of camels, sheep and donkeys
crowding the roadsides.
Bring your appetite along. Middle Eastern fare is a
delight to the palate. Healthy breakfast buffets piled with
yogourts, fruits, cheeses and breads offer an excellent start
to the day. St. Peter’s Fish (tilapia) is a staple in the Galilee
region. Shawarma and falafel, kebabs, olives and more
make for quick and tasty lunches.