On our last day in Israel we woke up early to get one last shot by the Sea of Galilee. We balanced on the charcoal-colored boulders to film blue waves against green reeds. Then we packed up, and drove away from the bright colors of Galilee. Back to the Dead Sea, where we’d started.
As we got into the car, something glinted on the ground in front of me. A ten-shekel coin. I looked around, but no one was nearby, so I put it in my pocket. My new lucky charm.
We had one more scene to record at the Dead Sea – the one that had been interrupted by a storm weeks ago. It took a few tries, since the sun was so high, but we made it work. We found a stretch of beach where the sand was darker and didn’t reflect as much light into Carl’s eyes.
Aran explained that this sand was a different color for a reason. The area was full of unusual geological formations, and there were sinkholes right under the sand that would open up and swallow us if we put a foot in the wrong place. We all carefully followed Aran, single file, until he stopped.
“Is it safe to film here?” I asked, pointing to the flat spot where we were standing. We were about fifty feet from an open pit in the ground.
“It’s OK,” Aran said. “Just don’t stomp your feet.” We stepped as gently as we could until the scene was done.
During the Dead Sea scene, the light changed from sunny to cloudy every few minutes, and not far away, someone turned a power saw on and off at random intervals. It took a while to get a clean take. “This is our last one. We didn’t think it would be easy, did we?” I joked.
Finally, after far too long, we finished our scene at the Dead Sea – our last talking scene. Amazed that we’d come this far, I snapped a quick photo of the team, and we headed back to the van.
The plan was to grab one more B-roll shot of the markets in Jerusalem, and then maybe buy a souvenir, before driving to the airport. Aran warned that Jerusalem would be more crowded than usual. It was a national holiday, and the US embassy would be moving to Jerusalem the following day. We had all afternoon, though, to manage the delays. How hard could it be?
In Jericho, we stopped for a bathroom break. A Bedouin man and his well-trained camel were lounging in the parking lot. “I know this camel,” Carl said “It’s a very good camel.” He and Aran talked with the camel’s human, and he agreed to have the camel kiss me on the cheek while they took photos.
“Do you want to ride on the camel?” The Bedouin man asked.
“How much for the ride?” I didn’t have much Israeli money
“Just ten more shekels.” He grinned. Stunned, I reached into my pocket and pulled out the ten-shekel coin. It was almost too much. God had given us everything we’d asked for and more. We’d finished the project when we never thought we could. And now, he’d given me a camel ride, and the coin to pay for it, just for fun.
Then, we were in Jerusalem again. It was a very different place then it had been a few days ago. Many of the shops were closed and locked. It took some time to find a place where we could film. Then, as we headed back to the van, a horde of celebrating demonstrators flooded the streets.
People of all ages were singing, dancing, and waving Israeli flags in a swirling mass of blue and white. A circle of boys held hands and shouted a Hebrew song at the tops of their voices. A group of younger girls danced in another circle, just down the street.
More and more people rushed into the center of town, shouting, singing, and wearing flags like capes. Though I knew the political environment was tense, in that moment I was swept up in the sheer joy of the hundreds around me. There was so much energy everywhere. I felt like dancing too.
We had to get back to the van, though, and that would not be easy. The streets were clogged with people. We chose a side road that seemed less crowded, and made our break.
In one narrow place, the crowd was so thick that no one could move – we were jammed against each other like sardines. “All push together!” Some stranger shouted. I leaned on the unknown woman in front of me. Someone I didn’t know shoved my back, and together we popped out into the wider section of the street.
“They were so happy! I loved their excitement!” I gushed to Aran, as we piled back into the van.
“Yes, there is that level of it,” he said carefully. “But there are other levels too. There is more than you see.” I nodded. It was probably best that we were leaving that night. A lot could change the next day.
We bought ice cream bars at a convenience store, and drove to the airport. There was a quick blur of re-packing a suitcase, transferring new files, checking in, and rushing to our plane, just in time. Then, we were in the air, leaving the place where we’d made a lifetime of memories in the blink of an eye.
We shouldn’t have been able to finish our checklist. But we had. So many things had happened, our goodbyes had been so fast, and now the lights of Israel were disappearing below us.
I was in Israel for twenty-three days. Three million heartbeats. Forever. No time at all. Exactly as long as God needed to do something amazing.
And while I was there, I learned that God isn’t limited by what’s possible for me. I learned that the safest place on earth is the place where God wants me to be. And I learned a little bit more of what God made me to do.
Three million heartbeats put more in my heart than I will ever be able to say.