I recently returned from a trip to the Middle East. I traveled with my husband and mother around Israel and into Jordan for two weeks. Now that we’re back, the first question people typically ask is, “Did you feel safe?” Sure, I’d think about past events and the emotional and religious charge that the region has. However, people get murdered in my home city of Minneapolis as well. So did I feel safe? Absolutely. One should always be aware of their surroundings no matter where they are. We were, and we enjoyed beauty, lovely people and an amazing experience.
Before heading off on our adventure, several people would ask why I would ever want to go to the Middle East. The question would catch me off guard. I felt fortunate, privileged and lucky to be able to travel to this part of the world. That question became the joke of our trip. As we strolled along the Mediterranean in Tel Aviv watching the sunset, ate delicious meals of hummus, falafel and tabouli, floated in the Dead Sea, hiked through the ancient city of Petra in Jordan, and wandered through the Old City of Jerusalem, with a laugh we’d ask one another, “Why would anyone ever want to come here?”
We encountered educated people along the way, all who spoke fluent English. It made me feel inferior that the only Hebrew words I knew were “Shalom” (hello/good bye) and “Toda” (thank you), and I knew nothing in Arabic. Visiting this place made me want to learn more. Prior to departing I read Thomas Friedman’s, From Beirut to Jerusalem, to get a bit of background on the history and politics. We also read Douglas Duckett’s wonderful travel guide from Trip Advisor and planned the majority of the trip based off his guide. While there, we hooked up with terrific tour guides: Zabu in Masada and Madeleine Lavine in Jerusalem. While my knowledge of this place grew, I now want to learn more. I gained an appreciation and fascination with this part of the world. It heightened my hunger for exploration. It reminded me how lucky I am to live the life I live. So why would anyone ever want to travel to this place? I think the better question is, why would they not?