A few days ago, Michael Totten posted another excellent post on his blog about the Middle East, continuing recounting his visit to Israel. It reminded me of when I visited that country in the summer of 1994 with my parents and my brother. We traveled around the country for three weeks, from the border with Lebanon all the way south to the border with Egypt and we even got to visit Jordan, a very special treat as the border between the two countries had opened only a few days before we arrived in Eilat. I have very good memories of this trip, it remains one of my most memorable travels. Neither I nor my family are religious, so in that sense I don’t really care about Israel being “The Holy Land“, but I am very much interested in history, and in that way I was fully satisfied: Israel is an amazing country, with so much history, both ancient and modern. I would love to go back one day, hopefully being able to combine it with a visit to Lebanon. Last year I spent some time there and it reminded me most of all of Israel. I would love to return to both countries, they both made a big and lasting impression on me. Probably my interest in the region of the Middle-East even stems from this trip to Israel.
I still vividly remember staying not far from Kiryat Shemona in the northern part close to the border with Lebanon, where at night we would hear shooting coming from across the mountains in southern Lebanon. I remember driving around the Golan Heights, with its deserted villages shot to pieces and concrete walls and minarets filled with bullet holes standing deserted. I remember crossing the impressive, bare, dry Negev Desert while driving south to Eilat and driving through the desert to the “back entrance” of the Masada plateau. I remember the Old City of Jerusalem, the Wailing Wall, visiting the Dome of the Rock, so incredibly beautiful against the bright blue sky, visiting the church of the Holy Sepulchre, dark and smelling of myrrh. I remember walking around the souk in the Old City, walking on top of the walls surrounding the Old City, looking out over the roofs. Driving from there through the West Bank to Jerusalem, my mom almost freaking out over whether that was safe or not. Getting used to seeing so many soldiers on the street with rifles swung over their shoulder. I remember my brother teaching me how to play chess and me beating him in my first game ever. Never played again, though… There are lots of other good and vivid memories.