War torn streets, scarred cobblestone, hungry hearts, starving families and terror around every corner.. These were the first images that developed in my mind when I received the invite to experience Israel. No matter how hard I tried to dodge and burn the image of this news slandered and broken land, I couldn’t shake what had been fed to me. Let me the first to tell you, I could not have been more wrong. What you see is not what you get here folks. The shoe don’t fit and the price is WRONG. Israel absolutely blew my mind and shattered my perception the moment I arrived. Step one foot off the plane and you will see why they call it “The Promised Land”.
In June of this year, I was graciously invited on behalf of Socality to join 30 digital influencers and creative leaders, on a cross continental excursion led by The Israel Collective. The trip comprised of travelling & exploring through the nation, walking where Jesus walked, sharing extravagant meals and immersing ourselves into the most intimate parts of the Israeli culture. From rooftop sunsets in Tel Aviv to crater sunrise hikes in the Negev desert and floating in the Dead Sea in between. Israel truly has everything you could ever desire. The people were kind (though a few verbally expressed their dislike for my tattoos 😂), welcoming and routinely tried to lovingly force feed hummus at every chance. Which by the way, we need to stop calling hummus, “hummus” outside of Israel because it pales in comparison to what the people of Jaffa are dishing up.
We spent every sunrise watching the sun triumphantly persevere it’s way over the horizon which seemed to be the edge of the earth, and every evening laughing at the dinner table, singing loudly, sharing stories, and truly listening to the Israeli people and for once, each other. But dinner was not to be eaten before sailing the sea of Galilee as the moon clocked in for her shift and the sun flopped over the horizon like a tired lion. My camera was my life line and my shutter finger was clicking more than an auctioneer writing in Morse code. The images you see are hardly even a 10th of what was taken.
One of the most incredible parts of this trip was actually walking where Jesus walked. Whether you have faith or not is irrelevant for this portion of Israel because fact is fact and we know Jesus was a man who walked and these are the places he walked. The meaning of Israel can actually loosely translated to “at war with God”. Which means there could not have been a better destination for me. I am a believer, but I am stubborn as an Ox and seem to be fighting with life and my faith consistently. For me to be able to actually put context, visual, taste, smell, etc.. to the places I have read and heard about was incredibly eye opening and made things so much more real. I arrived a faithful skeptic and departed a faithful skeptic, who knew he was too stubborn but couldn’t deny His presence.
One scorching afternoon was spent dragging my anchored feet and hurting eyes from broken memory to broken tool and toy. To walk through the holocaust memorial beside Hasidic Jews and stand inches apart looking through my blue eyes, under my blonde hair was one of the most eye opening experiences of my life. I am about as emotionally driven as a brick wall, but to feel every faux wall I had built around my heart melt as I wiped tears from my eyes was incredibly real. Looking at the burned shoes and tattered journals of Jewish children and victims brought me to a place of humbled understanding and sorrow. I am forever grateful to live in the time that I do and experience these places in safety and luxury.
Long story long, I guess what I am trying to say is if you want your stomach full, adventures out of control, life in your soul and a journey you will never forget, Israel is the place to go and The Israel Collective is the crew to go with.
Until next time…
CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL ISRAEL GALLERY
Christian Watson -1924US, Elle May, Sam Kolder, Morgan Harper Nichols, Garrett King - Shortstache, Joelle Friend, Eric Ward - Little Coal, Scott Bakken, Matt Ferr, Jon Zoeteman, Sam Knupp, Missy Robertson, Jase Robertson,Reed Roberston, Brighton Robertson, Mia Robertson, Cole Robertson, Wendy - Nomadic Fare, Ran Parton + Lindsey Parton, Davey Gravy, Daniel Han, Pastor Keenan Clark, RJ Bruni, Pastor Brooks, Jacob - Jbx Creative, Dan, Raj, Josh, Yoav (who by the way, is there best tour guide I have ever experienced in my entire life).