Gulls flapped around our boat as the sun glanced off the Sea of Galilee. I looked up, and webbed feet were creating an unusual shadow picture on the vessel’s translucent roof.
We were just beginning a two-week pilgrimage in the nation of Israel to learn more about the life of Christ. From our guide we heard of the history of the people who live here – and toured excavation after excavation of ancient sites.
Songs from a blackbird – close to caves where David hid from King Saul.
Since in my book I wrote about the Roosevelt family’s sojourn to Europe and the Middle East in 1872 and had never been there myself, I was eager to compare my accounts with theirs. “What I did awe for was to think that on the very hill which the church covers was the place where Jesus was crucified,” fourteen year-old Theodore wrote in his diary. We too saw the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, as well as the Garden of Gethsemane, the Wailing Wall, the Jordan River, the Dead Sea, and the city of Bethlehem, where in 1872, Theodore Sr. had to talk the locals into leading them on a tour because there had been fighting in the area. Things don’t change much in the Holy Land.
Would I see some of the same birds he saw 143 years ago? “Teedie” reported collecting the skins of a finch, bulbul, quail and warbler. These did not present themselves in the places I was, but I did see a few (the area is still a migration flyway and very popular with birders).
At the base of Masada, a high stone fortress where a Jewish rebels staved off the Roman army circa 70 A.D., there were friendly blackbirds who would fly to your hand for a crumb of bread. High above, striped grey pigeons looked over the desert.
A symbol of peace, this white dove rested in the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem as hundreds of people prayed below. Shalom.