I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people. How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! All who delight in him should ponder them. Psalm 111:1-2 NLT

Tuesday, October 21, 2014


Delores E. Topliff
In life and writing, too much unremitting sameness, even of very good things, decreases our interest. Instead the juxtaposition of unlikely items together for comparison or contrast generates new deeper responses like adding the right spice to transform bland cooking. The best hero needs a human flaw, and the worst villain some endearing or redeeming quality. My recent trip to Israel provided many vignettes inviting fresh comparisons.

For example, Orthodox Jewish rabbis there wear long black coats and flat black hats. Married men of Russian background wear large expensive round fur hats made from 14 sable fur tails. All Hasidic men and boys, no matter which hat they wear, grow long curled earlocks that bounce with every step. I watched one soberly-clad rabbi grasp a young daughter by each hand as all three happily skipped down the road together unashamed. Such scenes carve a special place in memory. In the Old City, a fast walking boy maybe age 10 wearing a junior-size long black coat and flat black hat hurried through Old Jerusalem’s narrow twisting streets toward the larger modern city beyond carrying a skateboard over each shoulder. I wanted to follow him to watch.

We faced travel challenges. After our rental car's battery died and cost us four hours, our gracious bed and breakfast hostess in Arad SE of the Dead Sea tried to tell us a shortcut, but the soldier at that road checkpoint turned us back because there had been trouble. That broadly smiling khaki-clad Uzi-carrying young IDF soldier said he’s been to the U.S. three times, loves it and us, and gave us a giant chocolate bar plus four silver and red foil-wrapped chocolate hearts while thanking us for coming.

Traffic in Jerusalem, especially during high feast days, defies description. We saw twentieth century cars get stuck going opposite directions through narrow Herod’s Gate in the Old City, built in 1538. One car was driven by a woman, the other by a rabbi, necessitating a gesturing policeman, the rabbi’s young son, and many passersby on bikes, foot, some pushing baby buggies, to all give advice while measuring how near each vehicle came to scraping rock walls. The woman finally backed up.

The juxtapositions of tough tender soldiers, young Orthodox boys with a few modern trappings, and ancient gates that once knew horses, camels and donkeys now accepting sleek high-octane horsepower, are wonderful vignettes cementing people, conversations, and scenes into unforgettable places in my or readers’ hearts.


  1. Love this, especially that broadly smiling khaki-clad Uzi-carrying young IDF soldier! Wish I could have been with you.

  2. Next time - and he was as sweet as his chocolates, though also clearly a fully capable soldier.

  3. This is great! I hope we hear more about your trip in posts to come!

  4. Love it! I, too, love the story of uzi carrying soldier! I can just picture him giving you the chocolates and telling you how much he loves that you came. What an adventure. You never know from day to day what you will encounter. That is the best part. When I have the opportunity to travel, I pray "speak Lord." And he does! He has much to say...even in a long line at the airport or losing our luggage. He is speaking...we just need to listen. He goes before us and has a reason for everything. What a trip you had. TELL US MORE!!!!