Last week I visited Jerusalem and its surrounding areas. It was very personal and unlike any other trip. Do-Gooder launches next month and with it, a lifelong dream realized; to run a company committed to bringing relief and justice to those who desperately need it. The journey has been long and at times frustrating, but in those times, I’m reminded of one of C.S. Lewis’s famous speeches: “God loves us, so He makes us the gift of suffering. Through suffering, we release our hold on the toys of this world… We're like blocks of stone, out of which the sculptor carves the forms of men. The blows of his chisel, which hurt us so much, are what make us perfect.”
OLD CITY JERUSALEM
Walking from Modern Jerusalem into the Old City is like walking through a time machine. It’s the stuff movies are made of. During the day, the streets are alive with the rich historical tapestry of four religious communities coexisting in one place; Jewish, Armenians, Christians and Muslims. At night, it transforms into a mysterious labyrinth of tunnels, each corridor leading into the unknown. As I walked through the Old City, I felt a very strong connection to this place knowing that the foundation of who I am began here thousands of years ago.
THE DEAD SEA
It’s the lowest place on Earth at 400 meters below sea level. Our guide gave us two simple tips before entering the water. Don’t get the seawater into your eyes and don’t accidentally drink it because you will get sick. Fair enough. Check. Check. As I walked closer to the edge of the beach, I saw people gathered and slapping on the “magical” mud. I ran up like a kid at playground on a rainy day, and started to lather on the clay-like material. Under the one hundred degree heat, my body started heating up rapidly, so I quickly stepped into the sea to cool off. Now, when I was a kid, I couldn’t float for the life of me. I sunk faster than an Ann Coulter quip on gay marriage. But as I lay in the water, my body began to naturally float. I let go. I was at peace.
Masada, Hebrew for "fortress", is located 30 miles southeast of Jerusalem and rises above the shores of the Dead Sea. After the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Jewish Temple in 70 CE by the conquering Roman army, 1,000 Jewish zealot resistors and their families fled Jerusalem and took over this remote mountaintop. Under their leader, Eleazar ben Yair, they withstood a 2-year siege by the Romans. When Eleazar ben Yair, saw the end nearing, he gathered his soldiers together and made the most difficult decision. Knowing that they would eventually be captured by the Romans, and witness their families being tortured in front of them, they chose death by their own hands rather than being captured alive and becoming slaves to the Romans. Each soldier returned to their families, shared the brief time they had left, and then ultimately executed them. After that, ten soldiers were picked to then execute the rest, and then one last soldier to finish the remaining. Whooo! Intense!
I thought about this story, and the courage required to take your own family’s life to save them from torture. In this place, I couldn’t help but hink about my own life. I thought about what is important to me, and why I am here. One thing resonated true: to love and help others. For a brief moment, it was clear again. And I was thankful for that because I knew the feeling would fade again. Looking into my tiny camera, I noted it as a reminder for when I get lost again. I was left with a final thought. What if every person could muster even an ounce of that courage and sacrifice ourselves to help our fellow brother or sister? The wonders we could achieve. We would be giants.