Shalom from Israel

Our pilgrimage to Israel began four years ago, following a scary diagnosis and a very specific recommendation.

“You should take your daughter to the Western Wall,” my mom’s friend Sam, a retired Israeli soldier, told her, after hearing that my sister Kathy had been diagnosed with breast cancer.

My mom, who lights candles in almost every church she passes, thought that sounded like a good idea.

She listened carefully when Sam told her that he had taken his own daughter back to Jerusalem following her breast cancer diagnosis, to pray at the Western Wall. Today, Sam’s daughter is in remission.

Last May, I sat next to Kathy’s husband Keith and my mother when Dr. Marsh told us that Kathy’s cancer had metastasized.

“We’re taking her to Israel,” Mom told me, when the dust had settled from that terrible news. “We’re going to pray at the Western Wall.”

On April 22, following 11 months of her careful planning, we did.

The moment we stuffed our written prayers in age-old cracks and placed our hands on one of the holiest sites in the world, felt surreal.

Then, we joined our excellent guide Asher to walk the Via Delarosa, the narrow path through Old Jerusalem said to be the route Jesus walked on his way to his crucifixion. We visited the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, said to house Golgotha, where Jesus was crucified, and the tomb from which he rose from the dead.

During our time in Israel, we strolled past the Garden of Gethsemane, visited Bethlehem, now located in the West Bank, and toured Nazareth. We stood on the banks of the Sea of Galilee, and dipped our feet in the River Jordan.

We enjoyed a lazy float in the Dead Sea and took advantage of its mystical healing qualities.

Ironically, but as we had hoped, we found peace in the Holy Land. En route, a street huckster “Hakuna Matata-ed” Kathy and wished her a long and beautiful life. A Japanese woman inexplicably gave Kathy four tiny paper cranes.

I can’t fit all we experienced during our time in Israel into one post, so I’ll wrap up this one with a word we’ll always associate with our time in that fascinating place.


Here’s a picture of one of the notes we stuffed in the Western Wall. Kathy included some prayers for fellow teachers and we all added prayers for a witty Irishman with a profound faith in God and love of chocolate and the Green Bay Packers.
Here is Kathy floating like Cleopatra in the Dead Sea.
The walled city of Old Jerusalem and the Temple Mount.
The Garden of Gethsemane.
Another view of the Garden.
Because it was the Sabbath, I was unable to take pictures of the Western Wall, with all the prayers we stuffed. But, this is the southwest corner of the Temple platform wall and the area in front of it is where Jesus overturned the tables of the money changers, according to the Gospel.
The entrance to the Western Wall Plaza.
The tenth station on the Via Delarosa. Jesus is stripped of his garments.
Veronica wipes the face of Jesus.
We spotted this in a stall along the Via Delarosa. Go Pack Go!
This is Kathy taking a picture of the cave in which Jesus was born. The Church of the Nativity is built over this site, located in Bethlehem.
A beautiful garden on the shore of the Sea of Galilee celebrates the Beatitudes.
The Church of the Beatitudes.
I am standing on the edge of the River Jordan, which, as it turns out, is smaller than the Oconto River.
I am posting this in honor of St. Joseph, whose carpentry shop was said to be located near this spot. This scene, in which Mary and Joseph find young Jesus in the Temple, marks the last time Joseph is mentioned in the Bible, which I think is an outrage. I asked about any other sites in Nazareth that celebrate Joseph and our surly guide for the day Isaac said, “It’s not necessary. Joseph is a minor character in the Bible.” I think Joseph needs a new marketing director and I’m thinking about volunteering for the job.

This very short video marks another surreal moment in our journey, in which our Palestinian guide leads us in singing Silent Night next to the cave in which Jesus was born. Warning: The singing is as terrible as the moment is profound.

10 thoughts on “Shalom from Israel

  1. Thank you for sharing a part of your family’s journey. The pictures that accompany your story are wonderful, too. I wish the very best of health for Kathy. Sisters are so special.

  2. Fascinating! No wonder unique Peggy has such special daughters. As for Joseph, before you start spnsoring his case, discover what he actually de as a carpenter. He did not make houses or furniture. I was surprised to find out a few years ago in my reading.

  3. It was fantastic how you took us on this journey. I loved it!! The only thing better would be a miracle for Kathy. Love and prayers for all.

  4. Awe inspiring, Laura. Thank you!! I totally agree with you on the Joseph issue. I volunteer to help you with that.

  5. Maybe if you are going to take up Joseph’s cause, you should join his church??? (just sayin’!)

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