It was my first trip abroad, you know, across the Atlantic.

The whole way. I made it. I didn’t die, like I maybe thought during hour ten of straight flight, when all I could see on the screen on the seat in front of me was a virtual map of ocean for what looked like days. My final destination, what any Texas-bred southern belle dreamt of all her life: the Middle East.

I was using my time in the aircraft to make peace with God in my heart, sandwiched between a Christian Jewish grandmother and grandson and their carry-on snacks, all belonging to a nearby family of 8. I’d also made friends in the back part of the airplane with an assortment of Jewish Israelis and at least one Canadian flight attendant. In between time zones, while the other 300 passengers slept, we were chatting over free coffee and biscuits, and they all had serious questions for me.

Where would I go? Would I make Aliyah? What would I tell the people in security regarding my purpose for the trip? Why was I going? How would I have funding to support myself? How long did I want to stay, anyway? How can someone Jewish believe in Jesus and not identify as either a Christian or a Jew?

After speaking to them all, and after praying, I realized there could be a problem.

Me. My very existence seemed to pose the problem.

I was entering Israel as a Jewess who didn’t know Hebrew or Jewish tradition, who didn’t know the right way to wash hands before a meal or that I shouldn’t shake the rabbi’s hand as a salutation. I came believing in Jesus, yet having left the Christian faith once I discovered they call Saturnalia the birth of my Savior.

But I don’t accept defeat as my final outcome! I believe through the very faith that led me to donate or sell everything I own to pack up and find answers the old fashioned way, by making a real change, I can draw a bridge between shakshouka and Austin, between Pesach and Protestantism, between hate and ignorance, and dare I say between Jerusalem’s East and West – and I want to use my years of experience as a journalist to get to know people and tell their genuine truths, maybe by telling my own, that we are all a hybrid breed of something and as long as we are hiding from it, we are fostering the very Cancer that will end our peace because peace has never been nor will it ever be an external resource.

So, I did my three months in the Promised Land mostly cleaning toilets and doing manual labor, figuring out what was drawing me to love a people who don’t love me back, what was prompting me to leave a country where I could work successfully to live in a place that didn’t want me or my work unless it was voluntary and free. Even still, in Israel, it’s hard to give your work away if you don’t fit in with some group.  

With God's help, sometime in 2017 I will be leaving the United States for the final destination of Israel, for the second time, with only what I can carry behind me. I’m leaving with the dream that this life is not a Calvin Klein advertisement in 8 ½ x 11 high gloss. I leave clinging to the promise that my hard work will bring profit. With the assurance my salty tears are not unheld by the God that I believe in. I go again because I want to tell a Christian that the true God is the one of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, and what He really hates is their self-righteousness. I want to tell the Jews that the true God is the one of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, and He’s for everyone. Not only them.

Whether or not anyone is listening, I’m going to the rabbis and the synagogues. I’m taking to the streets. I’m going across the country, and I’m basing my stay in Jerusalem.

As I sit in cafés, as I ride the buses, as I share Shabbat meals, as I meet tourists, as I am a tourist, and as I photograph and write my findings, I want honesty to show that the war is not in the Middle East but in our own hearts. I want my unabashed honesty to force open dialogue between neighbors that are as divided as Jerusalem, with deeper borders than the ones touching Israel and Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria.

I want to share this journey with you because these are the steps I’m created to take, and they are too predestined and purposeful not to share.

I am as American as it comes and as Texan as possible by blood, with English family consisting of noble titles in the early 900s-1000s, who were on board one of the very first ships from their England to America in the 1500s, and with Native American blood from somewhere down the line when one of my forefathers married one of the “savages” whose land he stole. Yet, contritely, I am still only a third-generation American of Jewish-Hungarian roots, because it was in the early 1900s that a brave widow, a doctor no less, packed up her two little girls and boarded a ship to escape their eminent death.

If you’ll come along, I’d like to offer a fresh voice for the others like me, who will not be reduced to a societal check box. I cannot be classified as a human being by one skin color, one country of origin, one religious affiliation or one income bracket. Neither can you. Neither can America. Neither can Israel.

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