Dr. Seena Russell Axel


Israel … Oh Israel,

you called to us from afar.

“Come to see! Pray with me!

My gates to you are ajar.

Your many wars and stories

so layered and complex.

From temple walls of limestone

to free-roaming desert hybex.

The Byzantines…The Romans,

The Marmalukes and Turks,

The Muslims and The British,

behind each regime temple walls lurk.

A group of fifteen travelers

from all parts of the states.

Our guide, the wondrous Mordechai.

This Motti determined our fate.

From Tel Aviv to Jerusalem,

up Masada and to the Dead Sea,

he filled our heads with points of fact

alivening Israel’s vast history.

We cried at Yad Vashem;

were amazed by The Dead Sea Scrolls.

Learned of Suliman, the King,

even while passing through check points and tolls.

At the Jaffa shuk we tried new foods,

drinking pomegranate juice, fresh-squeezed.

In Caesarea’s port of call,

we questioned kings and queens.

Nazareth provided many sites,

Fourteen Stations of the Cross.

We walked as Motti shared with us,

Christ’s story without gloss.

The Church of the Annunciation,

another spectacular site to see.

The Christians, Greeks and Armenians

each claim a piece of thee.

So much to see. So much to do.

And rarely were we late.

That Motti kept on feeding us,

sometimes facts and other times…dates.

Mary’s Well…Zippori,

those fabulous mosiacs.

Talmud signing and sealing,

even Rosh Hanikra’s grotto seemed prosaic.

Motti promised from the beginning;

committed to make this the best.

Even schlepping us down church basements

to see sisterns hidden from the rest.

And keep his word

he did for sure.

Meeting all of our needs

and much…much…more.


We met some folks along the way;

their stories they did tell.

Druze family, Holocaust survivor, Palestinian journalist,

each helped perspectives swell.

The Golan Heights, we now know,

can never be returned.

It’s place in protecting Israel,

surely has been earned!

Our favorite inn…the cabins,

at Peace Vista Lodge.

The Kfar Haruv breakfasts

were more than just hodge/podge.

Schwarma and falafel lunches

were more than some could take.

So the “brown-bag lunch club” formed,

extending breakfasts on-the-make.

Sailing the Sea of Galilee

and even Lake Kinnaret.

We learned of Eight Beatitudes, safe rooms,

the workings of Parliment’s Knesset.

At the Western Wall on Sabbath eve,

we cried, prayed and danced with Israeli army women.

Witnessing the men on the other side of the Wall

dobening deep and wrapping leather sphyllin.

Mt. Sinai…Mt. Zion,

Bethleham too.

Bahai Gardens, underground tunnels, caves and mikvahs,

more than a few.

All this and more,

we did on this trip.

Despite the flies and the heat,

no steps were skipped.

The sound of John’s cane

orchestrated our daily journey.

More than any shofar, moisan or flute,

John climbed waterfalls and mountains minus a gurney.

The landscape changed as cultures did.

This land’s been conquered so often.

The Romans, the Jews, the Muslims, the Druze,

so much war…far too many coffins!

Israel stands tall, proud through it all

with people like our Motti teaching.

It’s hard not to love her…strong and stalwart,

through eons of praying and preaching.

It’s clear to us all, there’s no right or wrong,

just stories from each unique part.

And surely we’ll take some of that home,

holding Israel, and our Motti, close to our hearts.


by Dr. Seena Russell Axel

September 2009