One of the major downsides of taking a tour anywhere is the rush from one site to another with little opportunity to have any meaningful interaction with the local people. DannyLee's cowboy hat and tzit tzit's attracted plenty of commentary and laughs with the men of Israel, but my heart always leans towards the children.
Children in Israel are carefully protected and watched over due to the unusual level of threat that goes along with their daily lives. School groups are given priority at every historical location as they pursue the study of their Land and history. Their laughter and chatter filled the air around us as did the staggering overload of perfumes favored by teenagers the world over. I soon found myself sidelined by the simple need to breath amidst all this aroma.
Today we shared the trail around Tel Dan with some very large groups. Forced to stop to catch my breath, we found ourselves being approached by a small contingent of straggling students. They had been playing in the nearby streams on their way to the area occupied by their teachers. The opportunity to practice a little English was too tempting for some to pass up. Mr. "Brazil" and Mr. "Nirvana" were the leaders of their little band and it appeared the most confident in their language abilities. Their first question to us broke my heart.
I've spent many years traveling around the world and have interacted with children in many countries. Their insatiable curiosity always produces a wide variety of questions. I'm sure that I've been asked similar questions in such circumstances, but their opening question struck a profound note in a Land where they find the hatred and contempt of the whole World directed towards them.
Their first question to us was, "Do you love Israel?" After assuring them repeatedly of our love and deep concern for the well-being of Israel, the entire atmosphere around us went from somewhat tense on their part to completely joyful and celebratory. The small blessing of being able to see the joy that lit their faces was uncontainable and my heart will forever by touched by that particular moment on our trip.
Yerushalyem would wait for another day.