While you read my blog, I invite you to reminisce about one of your really special vacations, or visualize a trip you dream about taking and what doing so would mean to you.
As Jews from birth, my wife Ruth and I have aspired for decades to visit our homeland Israel. As Sufi mystics and peacemakers, we have worked for years to unite the Abrahamic traditions and have envisioned engaging in unifying dialogues in Israel. Finally, at the respective ages of nearly 72 and 70, we were blessed to spend two full weeks in Israel (following five days enjoying Greece), traveling through many Israeli cities and towns.
Before departing, many friends and clients wished us a fun trip. My typical reply was that I not only expected to have fun, but I anticipated our trip being profoundly meaningful. My desires and dreams were realized and in some ways exceeded.
Rather than depicting our journey as a travelogue, I want to highlight experiences that deeply touched my heart.
Firstly, about 90% of the residents and merchants we encountered were very kind and helpful to us. Many seemed eager to inquire about us, to provide directions, and to offer information—sometimes (much) more than we requested. More than a few people went beyond the call of duty to assist or serve us. We felt really happy to witness Jews and Arabs coexisting peacefully and seamlessly in many parts of the country. It was very special to speak with Arabs, sometimes mentioning our Sufi involvement.
During part of our time in Jerusalem and Haifa, we were very privileged to stay, as pre-arranged, in three homes of fellow Servas (a vetted international peace organization) members. Each host proved very welcoming, gracious, and delighted to serve us. In a short time, we felt like friends or family members with each person! We learned a lot about each other’s lives and countries, although a few of the hosts have visited the U.S.
Swimming in the calm turquoise green water at two Haifa beaches served as a refreshing plunge into the beauty of Israeli nature. A palette of gorgeous flowers proliferated throughout Israel (except in the Southern desert).
We thrilled to the heart-rendering music of Three Women; Three Mother Tongues, a trio of women representing Israeli and U.S. Jews and Israeli Arabs. Composers of their songs, these women blended their three languages, often singing each other’s, as they crooned and played various instruments to melodic, peace-centered tunes.
Certified Israeli tour guide Rabbi Eitan Levy fed us a smorgasbord of fascinating info about Israeli history and architecture as he led us on a day-long walk through the Old City of Jerusalem. We toured the Jewish, Christian, and a bit of the Muslim quarters and shuks (bazaars). We strolled in awe of the ancient history and sites, some dating a few thousand years!
As expected, the supreme heart-light of our trip was the two-hour Kaballic (mystical Judaism) study period we spent in the famous mystical city Tzefat (Safed) with Kabbalist scholar and artist David Friedman. In his profound wisdom, depth, and warmth, David refreshed and embellished some of our Kaballic understanding, while providing rich gems of new knowledge in response to our crafted questions.
I choked up many times during Ruth’s Bat Mitzvah in the outdoor ancient ruins of a Bar'am synagogue (built in the first century A.D.). A Jewish girl typically becomes a Bat Mitzvah at either age 12 or 13; Ruth finally formalized becoming a Bat Mitzvah at age 70, which is Israel’s age. This was such an extraordinary experience that Ruth will write her own blog about it.
Ruth and I keep celebrating how well we travelled together, how much we consistently enjoy each other on vacations, and our ultra rich love for one another throughout our shared adventures during this glorious little country that is filled with huge spirit.
Blessings to each of you!
Your Relationship Coach,
Jim Sharon, EdD is a licensed psychologist and couples' coach who has over four decades of professional experience serving thousands as a counselor, as a life and relationship coach, and as a seminar and retreat facilitator. Dr. Sharon has authored two books and many professional publications, most recently, Secrets of a Soulful Marriage: Creating and Sustaining a Loving, Sacred Relationship (with Ruth Sharon, MS), published by SkyLight Paths, 2014. Jim and Ruth have been married since 1970, have raised three adult children, and have two young granddaughters.