Aug 23, 2013
Beth Gantry, Liz, Elizabeth...the main character of Elizabeth: A Holy Land Pilgrimage is many things to many people.
In the opening pages of this engrossing story, we meet Elizabeth and depart with her on the journey of a lifetime: her solo trip to Israel. She has dreamed of this pilgrimage for many years, but in the end it appears to be her discontent with her life that drives her to finally embark on her voyage. Beth has given her life to serving others and has come to feel only disappointment and resentment in return for her loving efforts. Her relationship with her husband Luke is strained to the point of near divorce. She feels a growing gulf between herself and her teenage children, the oldest of whom has flown the coop for college. Even her spiritual life seems dry and distant.
Beth looks at her journey to Israel as an opportunity to regain the life she feels she has missed out on in all of her efforts to care for others. "Her ache for what life hadn't yet held was becoming almost unbearable at times." Leaving her children in the care of her very driven and increasingly distant husband, Beth throws herself into her travel. Her desire is not to have the typical tourist experience of the Holy Land. Rather, she arranges for apartment housing in hopes of truly experiencing the traditions of the Jewish people. After having spent years studying the Jewish culture, "Elizabeth wanted to know, up close and personal, what is was like to live as a ‘chosen one.’"
Elizabeth's logistical efforts are rewarded immediately when she meets the friendly neighbors at her Jerusalem accommodations. Meir and Ayala Goldfarb, along with their adult children David and Miriam, immediately embrace Elizabeth as a part of their family's Sabbath celebrations and she finds herself invited to dine and worship with them.
Just as the reader is joining Elizabeth in settling in to her wonderful scenario, unexpected tragedy strikes. Beth, at the urging of a very concerned Luke, contemplates cutting her trip short but eventually decides to remain in Jerusalem. The ensuing events draw her even more closely into the Jewish rituals and traditions she has longed to experience. Ultimately, through her wonderful relationship with the Goldfarb family, she meets Sipporah and Rachel, who will become her guides. Their tutelage is both historical and spiritual - embracing their companionship Elizabeth ultimately reconnects with her own personal spirituality. A fire is lit within her as she reconnects with God with a new intensity.