Remember third grade when the teacher left the room and asked the class to work quietly for a few minutes? There was no surer way to trigger pandemonium.
The image flashed in my mind when I saw a record number of comments posted while I took a two-week vacation. The usual level of sophisticated debate ensued, of course. Our blogmaster is pleased that BorgBlog maintained a place in the heart of the Enquirer blog pack in my absence. Thanks to you all, and particularly to our full-time anonymous college student who managed to tear himself away from his studies in order to comment about absolutely nothing every three-and-a-half minutes for two weeks. What a hoot.
I spent nine days in Israel, seeing every corner of a compelling and complex country. A few of the high points:
-My first view of Jerusalem's creamy white stone walls, visits to the Kotel or Western Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the winding alleyways of the Jewish and Arab quarters of the city
-A tour, conducted by Rabbi David Foreman, of the Security Fence separating Israel from the West Bank, including several of the bus stops where suicide bombers blew up buses full of children on their way to school
-Dinner in a Sunni bedouin tent in the Negev Desert and a camel ride
-Climbing Massada before dawn and watching the sun rise above the ruins where 900 Jews chose suicide over Roman slavery
-Peering from the bunkers of the Golan Heights where Syrian soldiers once menaced the Israelis living on the kibbutzes below
-Tracing the path of Jesus' Galilee ministry from Nazareth to Capaernum and seeing the sites of the Sermon on the Mount and the multiplication of the loaves and fishes
-Participating in an archaeological dig in ancient caves, finding pottery that had not been touched by human hands in 2300 years
-Visiting Rabin Square in Tel Aviv and hearing our guide compare Rabin's assassination to the end of an era of innocence such as America experienced with the death of JFK
-Experiencing the collapsing power of Yad VaShem, the Israeli Holocaust Museum
-Listening to the experiences of an Israeli Arab, who account for one-sixth of the country's population, and a visit in a mosque with an imam who explained the five pillars of Muslim faith
It was a pleasure to return home last night to my own bed and decent coffee this morning. For now I have had my share of falafel and hummus, brutal heat and throbbing airports. So much new information to digest, so many new pieces to fit into the puzzle of the Middle East.