Monday, September 27, 2010
My favorite blogger, Steff of kOs, has once again provided me with what I'm considering might be the best band ever, along with causing me to reminisce about my favorite place ever! A few months ago, she introduced me to Eleveitie, a Celtic metal band. I was immediately in love with them and their sound. Now, I'm completely enthralled by the Israeli band Orphaned Land. By completely enthralled, I mean that not only have I ordered two Cd's but that until I get them I have been constantly playing their youtube videos. I didn't even do that with Eleveitie, and I thought they were beyond fabulous. So yeah. Con. Stant. Ly. I wonder if I can break either my computer or youtube. The number of views for these videos has seriously increased in the past week thanks to moi. Orphaned Land has combined metal with Middle Eastern instruments and sounds--I'm pretty sure I even heard what sounded like a shofar blast at one point. I really love the combined effect, plus they do an incredible job at putting ancient texts to music. Love, love, love them. And I just happen to love their country.
One of the things on my bucket list was checked off four years ago when I went on a 2-week journey through Israel. It will probably rank as the highlight of my life. I would go back in a heartbeat if I could. Israel is a country of contradictions and diversity, and it affects all the senses. There are lush, abundant gardens and dry, sparse deserts right alongside barbed wire fences and bunkers. Certain cities are a combination of ancient ruins and bombed buildings. Yet despite all of the obvious signs of conflict, Israel remains one of the most beautiful places on earth. I can't begin to explain how much this trip meant to me. I really was fortunate to be able to go there considering the politics of the area. At the time, I was involved in a study whose leader was able to plan a better tour than most because of our guide and his contacts. The lady in charge of the study had been to Israel earlier and met him, and together they arranged what might be the perfect tour. The guide was knowledgeable about the political situation and decided that our dates of travel were well-timed. We traveled the length and width of the country. We landed in Tel Aviv and headed north to Mount Hermon, right at the border with Lebanon. The Hezbollah would attack six weeks later. Yes, this trip could have been dangerous, and my hubby and family certainly thought so, but quite honestly I was never afraid. Our guide was a Palestinian Christian, so we even made it through several Palestinian checkpoints without incident. We did have to exit the bus and walk in a line set up like a ride at Disney. The main difference was the grated ceiling and the uzi toting guards watching us from above. We saw armed soldiers almost everywhere we went, and we did find ourselves in the midst of gunfire at one point. We ducked. As for the guide, he was considered to be one the best in the area, known to almost everyone, and he was a serious scholar of history and religion. He must have memorized everything he read because he could quote for hours and would give us the detailed history of whatever site we were getting ready to see. As for the places we toured, I can't begin to recount all of my thoughts and feelings. Okay, so I'll try, but take all the usual touristy spots and multiply by ten. Maybe twenty. It was really intense. I got re-baptized in the Jordan River, crossed the Sea of Galilee in a replica of an ancient boat and walked knee-deep in the Dead Sea and got caked with the clingy mud. I stood in the ruins of the city of Masada and felt the silence. I walked quietly uphill along the narrow Via Dolorosa amidst the chattering merchants in their market stalls. I climbed the exact steep steps to Caiaphas' house that Christ would have climbed as He was taken to the high priest. I prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, on the slope of the Mount of Beatitudes and at the Wailing Wall. My Jewish neighbor sent a "tefilah," or prayer, she had written on paper and rolled into a scroll for me to insert in a crack in the Wailing Wall, which of course I did. I knelt reverently before a small grotto in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem where Christianity had its beginning and stood quietly on Mount Meggido looking down on the plains where Armageddon, or the end, is prophesied. I grieved at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Memorial, and wept at the candle-lit Children's Memorial with its endless, quiet recitation of names of the Jewish children who died in the Holocaust. I saw the oldest arched city gate in existence, which as a ruin still stands two stories high, in the ancient city of Ashkelon and shivered to think that I was standing where the Canaanites lived almost 4,000 years earlier. I visited Jericho, Qumran, Caesarea, Mount Carmel and Beit Shean and marveled at the old cities and the ruins. I saw Jews, Muslims and Christians together in one place. I ate some of the best food I've ever tasted. So how to top a trip to the Holy City? Why, with a tour of several Greek Islands, the city of Athens and the ancient city of Corinth and Ephesus in Turkey, of course! We had one free afternoon in Athens that wasn't planned to the absolute last second, and wouldn't you know it but that afternoon, the students had an organized riot and we got caught up in it! We did our best to stay out of the way, but there were several city blocks of students battling the heavily armed αστυνομία, or police, and tanks! We even got tear gassed, but we loved every second of it!
Phew. Just reliving this amazing trip was tiring. I think I slept for a week when we got back. I was jet-lagged and just plain exhausted from going full speed for 14 days. So now back to the subject that got all of this started! Orphaned Land is coming here!! I happened to check their tour schedule and saw that they will be right here in less than two weeks! Here within 20 miles of my house!! I am way passed excited, but guess what? I can't get anybody to go with me. I'll admit to having very few friends who would be interested in listening to a metal band, but then again, I'm not the biggest fan of old-style heavy metal, either. But since Steff opened my eyes (really, I should have said ears here, right?), I've learned that the genre has expanded to include folk metal, viking metal and symphonic metal. Come on, there's gotta be something for everybody in the list of subgenres, right?
So, tell me Steff, are you up for a trip to visit me if I can't persuade anyone else to go?
(Image used is from the newest release by Orphaned Land, "The Never Ending Way of OrwarriOR," a "concept album" with their "unique brand of exotic, heavy music." Their wish is for people to rise above their cultural and religious beliefs and be united by the universal language of music. This image actually combines Hebrew and Arabic lettering. The band had a calligraphy artist to create this for the album. Read more about them at www.orphaned-land.com. Watch and listen to their single, "Sapari," at www.youtube.com/watch?v=DUi1yf97paw. Steff's amazing blog is at www.musingsofbuffyleigh.blogspot.com .)