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When the opportunity came up to travel to Israel with Gregg Braden for his first Holy Land Tour I signed up immediately.  I didn’t study the itinerary before making my decision, in fact I didn’t even look at it.

I’ve travelled enough now with Gregg to know that his journeys are life changing.  The only reservation I had was if I could get the time off work.  Fortunately, Life conspired with my plans.

At the time I was working on a major festival that was scheduled to be held in Brisbane, Australia during March, 2018, the exact dates I planned on being in Israel.  I didn’t know what to do.  I knew I couldn’t continue working on the event if I wasn’t going to be there to deliver it.

Then, I was unexpectedly offered another contract which allowed me to be away for up to five weeks during that period.  I couldn’t believe my luck.

There were also other signs that corroborated with my decision.

Coordinating the logistics of my journey was almost effortless.  I was able to break the long-haul flights up with a stopover in Thailand.  My flights and accommodation were on sale and heavily discounted.

I contacted my dear Israeli friend Suzy who I’d met on my first tour with Gregg to the Yucatan Peninsular, Mexico in 2012.  I didn’t know if she was still living in Tel Aviv but I hoped that she would be available to spend sometime together either before or after my tour with Gregg.

She wrote back almost immediately saying that she’d love to see me and insisted I stay with her.  Not only that, to my surprise and delight she and her partner were going to be on Holy Land Tour as well.

Around the same time, I also found out that another dear friend from California, Glea, who Suzy and I had both met in the Yucatan with Gregg in 2012, was also going to be touring with us.

I was extremely excited and began to feel more confident about my decision to make the journey at this time.

As I shared the news of my upcoming trip, family, friends and acquaintances enquired about my safety.  I wasn’t sure what to expect but I know how hyper-vigilant Gregg is about safety and knew he would never take a group into a country or situation if their lives were at risk in anyway.

I’ll admit I didn’t know much about Israel or the history and politics of that region prior to embarking.  Nor was I acquainted with its religious history or the biblical stories, having grown up in a secular household.

However, I was curious.  I wanted to experience the culture, connect with the people, explore the landscape and learn about the history of an ancient land which holds religious significance for three of the world’s major religions – Jewish, Christian and Muslim.

 

Lunch at Manta Ray with Suzy and her friend Leah

I arrived in Tel Aviv two days early to give myself time to adjust to the new time zone and, most importantly, catchup with Suzy.

Our first 72 hours together were spent exchanging stories, meeting her family and friends and exploring some of her favourite local haunts, including the Nachalat Binyamin artist market and scrumptious Manta Ray restaurant on stunning Alma Beach, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.

On the day we checked-in for the Holy Land Tour, we had the chance to share a cup of tea with Gregg Braden and Martha, his wife, and then catchup with his logistics team and meet the rest of our group.

 

I didn’t realise how many people I’d know on the tour.  I was on the lookout for my friend Glea, but to my surprise I discovered there were also five others in the group that I’d met on previous journeys with Gregg.

Over the next 16 days our group, representing 16 different countries, traversed much of Israel, visiting both Israeli and Palestinian ruled territories.

From Tel Aviv we travelled south, following the coastline to Ashkelon then made our way east across central Israel to the shore of the Dead Sea, which is 400m below sea level.

From there, we did day trips into the dry yet picturesque Negev Desert; visited the ancient fortress, Masada, home to the ruins of King Herod’s Palace; bathed in the therapeutic waters of the salt lake; and travelled to Qumran, the archaeological site where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found.

 

Sunrise at the Dead Sea

Mineral Baths with Glea, Dead Sea

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We also visited historic biblical sites such as The Monastery of Temptation, Jericho, Saint George Monastery, Jerusalem, Garden of Gethsemane, Bethlehem, Tiberius, Sea of Galilei, Magdala, Nazareth and Mount of the Beatitudes.

During our stay in the ancient city of Jerusalem, with its cobble stones streets so well worn they were more slippery than ice, we visited the holy site of the Temple Mount and the four quarters which divide the Old City culturally and religiously – The Christian Quarter, The Jewish Quarter, The Muslim Quarter and The Armenian Quarter.

 

Qumran

Grotto, Bethlehem

Prayers, Western Wall

 

At the Western Wall, also know as the Wailing Wall, we said and left our prayers and had the opportunity to explore its adjacent underground tunnels after dark.

We visited synagogues and walked parts of the Via Dolorosa, also known as the 14 Stations of the Cross.  At the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, we touched the rock on which Jesus was reported to have been crucified and saw the tomb where he is said to have been buried and resurrected.

The archaeological site of the City of King David, located south of the Old City of Jerusalem, provided us with spectacular views of the historic Jewish cemetery, know as the Mount of Olives, and the homes in the village of Silwan.  Here, we also explored the ancient underground water system that was carved underneath the City of David around 700 BCE.

In the North, we visited the hill top city of Zefat, which is reported to be the cradle of Jewish mysticism, Kabbalah, and known for its thriving artist’s colony.  In the ancient village of Isfiya, our group was hosted by a Druze community, who shared their unique philosophies and beliefs with us. In Haifa, we toured the impeccably manicured Bahai Gardens on Mount Carmel, the most holy site of the Bahai faith.

At Golan Heights, we could see the UN Peacekeeping Camps on the Syrian border and felt air strikes being carried out in Syria, only 30 miles from where we were standing.

Although there was a sense of unease and political tension within the State of Israel, mostly due to the presence of heavily-armed security forces at the checkpoints between Arab and Jewish territories, it wasn’t as severe as I’d been lead to believe.

In my experience, evidence of the strain between the Israeli and Palestinian communities could be found in more subtle clues such as the differences in signage from one territory to another.  For example, the Israeli ruled territories signs were consistently written in Hebrew, Arabic and English.  Where as, in the Palestinian ruled territories they were only written in Arabic and English.

Regardless of the political or religious environment, our group was made welcome in all the communities and territories we visited.

 

Monk Mobile

We met with monks, rabbis, priests and nuns, to experience their rituals, traditions, customs, philosophies and beliefs.  We interacted with Muslim youths who were eager to practise their English.  The more courageous of whom, sang us songs and wanted to dance with us.

I feel our warm welcome can be attributed to the simple yet very powerful heart centred process that Gregg shared and was practised by our group on a daily basis throughout the journey.  Using this technique, allowed us to shift into a state of compassion, appreciation, kindness and care which lay the foundation for positive interactions and experiences with all of whom we encountered.

Although I know Gregg’s material well – I’ve attended several of his live events, read and listened to his books, watched numerous lectures available on YouTube and trekked through the Mayan ruins with him in the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico, the Incan ruins in Peru and the Chacoan ruins in Chaco Canyon, New Mexico – his Holy Land Tour seminars included information that I’d not heard before.

 

Dead Sea Scrolls

During our daily site visits Gregg shared historical, archaeological and political information as well as knowledge gleaned from sacred texts and traditions he’s studied across numerous religions and cultures.

He also gave presentations on the Torah Code (also known as the Bible Code), the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Shroud of Turin and his latest book, titled Human by Design, in which he shares the latest scientific findings on our origin, our capabilities and our potential and how to apply these discoveries to our everyday lives.

 

As this leg of my journey comes to a close, I feel even more determined to understand the truth about our history and our origin.  I feel the sacred sites in Egypt, Turkey and Antartica calling me.

It will take time to process this powerful pilgrimage.  I’ve felt very at home in the State of Israel.  I feel a deep connection with its people and I’m now even more fascinated by its culture and religions.  I’m curious to see what biblical archeologists will uncover as excavations continue.  I hope to return to this country of contrasts very soon.

Thank you Gregg for your courage to host this profound tour at a time when there is so much unrest in the world.  Your knowledge never ceases to amaze me.  Martha Reich Braden, my deepest gratitude to you for your hauntingly beautiful, soul stirring music.  A big shout out to Elan Cohen and Laurie Willmot for your meticulous organisation and seamless coordination.  A big thanks also to our guides Herschel, Helen and Walid for sharing their wisdom and for taking such good care me.  I too am incredibly appreciative of having shared this journey with a tribe of like minded people from all over the world.  I do hope we share another adventure in the near future.

With love,

Kylie xo

 

Kylie Attwell
Tel Aviv, Israel

 

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