The sun was just beginning to make it’s decent when we set out to climb the Mount of Olives. I’ve climbed it many times in the past, each time an exhausting experience, but like childbirth, I tend to forget the pain and exhaustion once I see the view of Jerusalem.
“Matteo, I’m going to show you something magical. Just wait, we’re almost there.” I said to my antsy toddler who was full of energy and wanted to run, while I was still recovering from the agony of the incline.
We approached the lookout point just as a haze of light settled over the city, giving the appearance that it was glowing. I lifted Matteo from the stroller and walked over to the look out point. The wind was blowing in every which direction and the call to prayer could be heard faintly in the background.
I whispered to him,
“There’s been a lot of fighting and conflict over this city, but that’s because it’s not just any city —it’s a city with a destiny. One day, maybe not so far away, a King is returning and with him He is bringing His Kingdom, a new Jerusalem will come down from the Heavens—one without any pain or sorrow —the King himself will wipe away every tear. We get to live there too, doesn’t that sound wonderful? And you know who else will be there? Your Daddy.”
We hadn’t spoken in almost a year, save for the handful of short conversations, one about Matteo’s name, the others where he had nothing nice to say. All my texts, phone calls, messages, went unanswered. The day I gave birth to Matteo I almost didn’t want to tell him, he didn’t deserve to know he had a son when he ignored me the entire pregnancy. But I did anyways. Two weeks later his mom finally let me know what was going on. She told me that unlike what I had been imagining (Andres enjoying life and pretending I didn’t exist), he hadn’t left his room in months, wouldn’t talk to anyone, wouldn’t see anyone. My mind flashed back to a conversation we had a year before where he talked about wanting to end his life.
Two months later, after many sleepless nights, from both a new baby and worrying about Andres, we arrived in Medellin, Colombia. His mother, and all her excitement, picked me us from the airport and dropped us off at his Aunt’s house who lived just down the street from Andres’ family’s apartment where he was living. I sent him a message that I was here and if he wanted to see the baby to let me know. Nothing. Two days passed and Andres’ mom calls,
“Andres told me to tell you that if you need to go run errands you can leave the baby with me at the apartment and do whatever you need to do.”
I knew that was his way of saying he wanted to meet Matteo.
Nervously I walked to the apartment. Anxiously pressed the elevator keys. And barely had enough strength to ring the doorbell. I had no idea how this was going to go. I clutched my baby a little tighter as the door opened up and I was greeted by his Mother who instantly took Matteo from my arms making me feel like my armor was ripped from me. Luckily he spit up and she passed him back to me to go clean her shirt. I stood in the living room alone, when I heard footsteps coming down the stairs. I turned to see him there, looking just as I had left him over a year ago, handsome as ever.
“Hello Hosanna, how are you?” He said as he leaned in to greet me with a kiss to the cheek.
I wasn’t sure what to say or do, so I held Matteo out to him and said, “Here’s your son.”
He held Matteo awkwardly in his arms, unsure of how to hold him. His eyes scanned every feature of this little creature, processing every detail. It was this moment where he realized he had a son. This baby was real, and it was a part of him.
He took him to the back guest room, laid him on the bed, he never felt comfortable holding something so small, and began to play with him.
“Matteo doesn’t look like me.” He said in-between tickles.
“He doesn’t look like me either.” I countered. Not sure what he was getting at.
“Are you sure he’s mine?” There it was.
“Positive. He must look like some Colombian ancestor, because none of his features are from my side of the family.
“I look like my dad.”
“Yeah, you do. Sorry your Colombian genes didn’t show up to the baby forming process.” I said with just a slight bit of sarcasm and a little bit of a double meaning.
He looked up at me knowing what I meant. “Have you been watching the news? Colombia is messed up…..” And for the next two hours we sat in that back room talking about Colombian Politics, problems with his family, and about this tiny little human, as if all that had passed in the last year had never occurred.
This isn’t my first time to Israel, in fact, it’s my 4th. I’ve spent quite a bit of time in this country, I’ve seen most of the main attractions, done all there is to do, so why do I keep coming back? I don’t have a definite answer. Jerusalem is unlike any other city, and there’s something about this place that I’m tied to. When you arrive you
can feel tension in the air, the history in it’s stones, the stories in it’s mountains, and destiny it’s in people.
Though the Old City is interesting, and many people come here to walk where Jesus walked, visit the church Jesus is said to have been crucified and buried, or see the Temple Mount and the only remaining wall from the Old Temple, I’ve done all these things and never felt a connection with the places and my faith. But the Mount of Olives is different. 2000 years ago the same mountain is where Jesus spent most of his time away from the crowded, bustling streets of Jerusalem, away from the religious leaders and their judgments. As I stand here now at sunset, the wind blowing, the city glowing like a golden ornament, His presence Is still here.
A breakdown of our expenses for 3 weeks in Israel:
We rented a room in Tel Aviv for one week: $200
We rented a studio apartment in Jerusalem for one week: $200
We rented a room in Jerusalem for one week: $200
(All airbnb rentals).
in Total we spent $600 on Housing.
Food is really EXPENSIVE in Israel. We ate a lot of falafel sandwhiches would cost around $4.50 -it’s the cheapest food you can find and is referred to as the “cheeseburger of the Middle East”. Eating anywhere else we spent between $12-15 dollars, and that is eating at the cheapest places we could find aside from falafel stands. I tried buying groceries for a week and cooking at home for almost every meal to see if that would save us money –it didn’t, I still spent about the same as when we ate out for lunch and dinner. Groceries from the super market and shuk (outdoor produce market) are still really expensive.
in Total we spent $400 on food.
Our main mode (and my favorite) of transportation was walking. In Jerusalem we rarely took public transportation as we were located really close to all the major attractions. A bus ride costs around $1.75, we took the bus more frequently in Tel Aviv because we were on the edge of town. We also took the train from the airport and the light rail a few times, as well as a bus back to the airport.
in Total we spent $40 on transportation.
-Diapers and wipes: $45
-Clothes (I needed more light weight appropriate attire for these hot weathered conservative countries) $90
-ATM fees: $15
in Total I spent $150 on Miscellaneous things.
For 3 weeks in Israel I spent a grand total of: $1190
More than I was hoping to spend..but I’m planning on making up the difference in Turkey. Ideally, I’m trying to stay under or around $1000 a month.
*I didn’t include airfare into the total because it really depends on where you are flying from, but I spent $302 flying from Porto, Portugal to Tel Aviv, Israel. There were cheaper flights, however gone are the days of booking the cheapest flight and putting up with a long layover and random arrival time (i.e. 1:45am). With a toddler, the shortest flight time possible and a reasonable arrival time are what I have to consider paying extra money for.