|First Posted: Dec 25, 2013 |
Feb 24, 2014
Israel Trip/Private Guide, Graeme Stoneby Debora Johnson
Graeme Stone, Excellent Israeli Guide
I find it interesting that today, Dec. 25, 2013, Christmas Day, I am writing this tribute to our Israeli guide, Graeme Stone. Bill and I were fortunate enough to be able to have him to ourselves for seven days. What a monumental treat and life changing experience. He brought the story of Israel to life. If you are traveling to Israel and are looking for someone really special to drive and guide you--get in touch with Graeme Stone! Bill and I come from different backgrounds and religions. Our political views, while similar--often have divergence. With this information, Mr. Stone artfully navigated us through the Israeli experience in a most dynamic way, incorporating this calculus into our experience. I might add that Bill and I were not shy with our questions. We barraged Graeme relentlessly--on many fronts--albeit, politely. There are not enough superlatives to describe him. He is beyond excellent--so well read--so poised--so full of vision!
To say that Israel is a vacation would be a misnomer. Our trip to Israel was an exploration into the multi-faceted life existence of persons from universal backgrounds and cultures. It was an attempt to try to understand the political circumstances that surround the Middle East dilemma--which, of course, is an impossibility. One can try to intellectually parse the day-to-day existence of this Jewish State; however, after visiting for a brief two weeks, I can only say that, too, is not possible. I have come away with intellectual, visual, oral, and internal glimmers and stirrings that I view through my own cultural prism. My reaction is visceral--one of "awe". I found this trip to be one of the most exciting--if not the most exciting trip on a multiplicity of fronts--that Bill and I have ever taken. We have traveled extensively. It was a journey through thousands of years of history, through biblical teachings from a myriad of religious groups, through a kaleidoscope of cultures that have brought us to the present day.
We started with an itinerary that had been worked out here in the United States--in tandem--with a wonderful company called ITC (Israel Tour Connection) . I worked with Marlene. She and her husband are the owners of the company. Marlene was a joy as were the rest of her staff. This was a 14-day custom trip for Bill and me. We had a guide/driver and car for seven of those days. The initial itinerary was not set in stone, but rather a cursory review. It was made to be changed. Between Marlene, stateside, and Graeme Stone, our guide on site, lots of sparkle was sprinkled on the itinerary. Graeme just kept dipping into the sparkle jar and the sprinkling of sparkle continued--non-stop! That is one of the many glories of "custom travel" and an excellent guide.
From a religous, cultural and political perspective Bill and I wanted to try to experience Israel through a Jewish, Christian and Muslim mirror. Although this is nearly an impossible endeavor, we gave it our best. Thus, we visited a potpourri of synagogues, churches and mosques, paying special attention to the history and cultural influences. Many stops were made to witness where historical events over thousands of years have taken place. We traveled the borders of Lebanon, Syria, Egypt and Jordan and some Palestinian areas, and were fortunate enough to be able to go horse-back-riding at Tekoa, one of the settlements outside of Jerusalem--always mindful of the past, present and future ramifications of the political scene. One can intellectualize; however, to visually experience the proximity of all these countries is both mind bending and enlightening. It is real!
To say Graeme Stone was most amazing would be an understatement. Never has the saying "win the hearts and minds" had such clarity! Thank you, Graeme. Baruch HaShem.