TRAVEL 25 AUGUST, 2015

Living Vibrantly: Morning Meditation in Jerusalem

My first visit to Israel was during the hottest time of year, a season when many locals go elsewhere to escape the heat, and a time when the humidity in Tel Aviv is almost unbearable until the sun goes down. We left Tel Aviv on a bus headed for Jerusalem - a 90 minute ride. I arrived at this ancient city wearing purple shorts and a bright green tank top, dragging my suitcase behind me, bumping on the cobblestones and making quite a scene. I immediately felt inappropriate in my attire as we entered through the Damascus Gate, bordering the Islamic Quarter. The women were covered from head to toe, a symbol of modesty and privacy, and here I am…the loud American. 1I've been traveling the world for years, and always try to be conscious of other cultures, presenting myself in an appropriate manner. For me, it's important to have respect for other ways of thinking, especially when you have the opportunity to immerse yourself in someone else's world. I felt I'd made a mistake, one that was driven by the heat and my need to keep cool, but as I looked around I didn't feel that I was being judged. I began to notice all of the vibrant patterns and colors around me. I may be showing skin, but it seems we all share a similar taste for vibrant textiles.2 We reached the door of our hotel during 'Call to Prayer', with a methodical wailing that can be heard in almost every part of the Old City. I was reminded of the dedication and piety of the people around me, who stop what they are doing five times a day, every day. After a quick change into more comfortable attire (a long skirt and sleeves!), and realizing that covering your skin in such heat actually helps keep the body cool (eureka!) , I began to meander through the old city. As I made my way through the various quarters, I watched cultures and colors change. Jerusalem's Old City is divided into four quarters: the Muslim Quarter, the Christian Quarter, the Jewish Quarter and the Armenian Quarter. Four different cultures with varying beliefs, all with a deep history that ties them together, surrounded by a wall that was rebuilt in 1538 but dates back to ancient times. I felt moved as I watched Jewish men and women line up at the Western Wall on separate sides, the men wailing and the women crying. 3 I watched Christians line up at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, waiting to kiss the Golgotha Alter. 4 What a truly incredible place! There's so much history, so much culture, and it's all within these walls. The walls hold an energy, a powerful vibe that's felt through the passion of the people.5 I've been known to sneak out for sunrise, and consider it a very special time to reflect. There's so much hype about sunsets (I can't deny enjoying a vibrantly painted sky at the end of a long day), but the sunrise speaks to me in a different way. It's a time of the day when most people are sleeping, and even the most bustling cities can be still.6 On this very special morning in Jerusalem, I found the perfect place for my morning ritual. From the top of our hotel, I could see the glory of the Old City in such a peaceful state. I watched the sun creep over the old walls, reflecting off of the golden dome of the mosque in the Muslim Quarter, slowly filling the streets of the Armenian quarter, reaching up the Western Wall and illuminating the ancient churches. The peace of the morning was unbelievably powerful. I am thankful for a new morning, for the time I was able to share with Jerusalem, and for the experiences that have opened my eyes and expanded my mind. Namaste. By: Andrea Leblang   #bestworldyet About Andrea: andrea's bio photo Andrea is a travel professional who escaped the 'corporate world' to answer the call of her wanderlust. Having an intense passion for exploring new places and experiencing new cultures, Andrea is circling the globe with her husband, Bryan, seeking out unique events and unforgettable experiences. Though no immediate plans to settle, their long term goal is a 'more permanent' place of residence. Part of the trip's agenda is discovering where in the world that place might be. Andrea's travel blog, Best World Yet, provides firsthand recommendations and inspiration for adventure, as she and Bryan make the world their home. You can follow them on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter & Pinterest. Andrea is an adrenaline junkie and yogi, who enjoys hiking, paragliding and cliff-jumping as well as food, wine, art and dancing. She is especially passionate about helping others make the most of their travels, and founded Elite Travel Arrangements in January of 2015. ETA is a luxury agency planning customized trips from curated travel selections. With in-depth, firsthand experience, Andrea combines her enthusiasm and passion for travel with an insider's perspective; offering local recommendations and hidden gems to ETA clients.