Monday, March 28, 2016

The Power of Keeping a Promise to Yourself

St. George's Monastery, Wadi Qelt

Always, always, I have wanted to see the Greek Orthodox monasteries of Marsaba and St. George, built into the cliffs of the Judean Hills. But on all of my trips to Israel so far, it was either too hot (the desert wadis are not places to visit in the summer), or too dangerous (political unrest), or I was too busy with other things (seeing family and friends, learning Hebrew and seeing other sights) to actually attempt to see them.

On my most recent trip (I just returned a few days ago), I finally did it. I did something I always said, mainly to myself, that I wanted to do.

I found a jeep tour that would pick us up at our Jerusalem hotel and drive us out into the West Bank to see the monasteries. I texted my daughter whether we should do it on that one day when it looked like it could work out, she texted back, "Let's do it!"

So we did it. Mind you, traveling out there is not without its hazards, see sign above, so you absolutely need a guide who knows his way around. In addition, the monasteries are remote, isolated, as the monks want to live as undisturbed as possible. They have left the world behind and have run these desert monasteries for hundreds of years.

Once we leave Jerusalem and are off-roading, we stop by an 800-year-old cistern (it can supply the Bedouin family that lives close to it with water for up to three years), pet a new-born lamb, and spot Israel's national bird, the hoopoe, on a Bedouin grave.

Not until we reach the edge of the Kidron Valley does the magical castle of the Marsaba Monastery, clinging to the cliff on the opposite side, appear in the car window.

Founded in the 5th century CE, the Marsaba Monastery has been in continuous use and twenty monks live there these days. Inadvertently, I caught one of them in the above photo, on the stairs under the copper dome.

Women are not allowed inside the monasteries, so we are only able to view Marsaba from the opposite cliff.

It is a wonderous castle, isn't it? Fortified by the crusaders in the 11th/12th century, it boasts the architecture of their sturdy fortress walls and towers.

Then it is time for mint tea and cookies, prepared by our guide in the back of his SUV.

On our way across the Judean hills, traffic jams West Bank-style.

My first glimpse of the St. George Monastery, built into the cliffs of Wadi Qelt, on the way from Jerusalem to Jericho.

St. George is not as remote as Marsaba, so here we tourists are met by souvenir sellers.

On the hill tops above, crosses stake the monastery's claim to its territory.

Founded in 480 CE, St. George was destroyed by the Persians in 614 CE, and not really restored until the late 19th century. You can see that its architecture is quite different from that of Marsaba.

Before we leave, we visit the remnants of an aqueduct built by King Herod (73-4 BCE) in Wadi Qelt. The Dead Sea shimmers beyond the Judean Hills, their northern slopes dusted green with the grass of spring.

As we leave the wonders of the wadis behind us and drive back to Jerusalem, I sit in the back of the SUV and smile to myself. I am tired, sweaty and dusty but I also feel like I'm flying, floating on the inside. Why does it feel so great to have seen the monasteries? Sure, they are indeed magnificent sites to see, and I am happy that I finally managed to see them. But more than that, I realize, by having made this trip, I have kept a promise to myself, and there is special power in that.

Keeping a promise to yourself boosts your confidence in yourself (your self confidence) because you actually do what you tell yourself you will do, not only for others but for yourself. And then, when you do it, when you fulfill that promise, you grow a little on the inside. You gain a little pride in yourself. You float.

PS: This post is my contribution to the Bella Grace Blog Hop. Remember to leave a comment (until April 1) for a chance to win a copy of the Bella Grace Spring 2016 issue (be sure I have a way to contact you!), and check out the chain of Bella Grace Blog hoppers.

Thanks for stopping by!


  1. Thanks for another wonderful vicarious adventure! I just devoured your photos and descriptions.

  2. A stark but fascinating area. What a contrast between the monasteries.

  3. Annette, this truly IS
    magical -- that you kept
    the promise you made
    to yourself, and that you
    had a peek into something
    most of us will only imagine.
    I find it amazing that those
    monasteries are every day
    life for the monks -- their
    reality. I hope and pray
    that their little islands of
    peace will always stay that

    Lovely essay!

    A fellow BG writer
    and hopper,

    xo Suzanne

    1. Thanks, Suzanne, for stopping by. You're right, even having seen the monasteries, it's hard to fathom what everyday life must but like in them.

  4. you took me to a place i will never go....and i thank you for letting me tag along. you also reminded me how important it is to keep a promise to myself; but more importantly, you made me realize that i need to MAKE promises to myself. i cannot remember the last time i did that. why, i wonder. is it because i am afraid i won't keep them? that they are too elusive and what's the point, then? that i will procrastinate out of the fear of doing something i am afraid i will fail miserably at? that worst of all...there are no promises left to keep. i think that frightens me most of all. so this week, i am determined to seek out promises to make to myself. what would i like to do, read, see, become, try.... just tiny promises at first...pinky promises. but then i'm graduating to ones that catch the skirts of my dreams.

    1. auntiejenni, thank you for your comment, you really made me think about what it means to even make promises to yourself ! I sort of took that for granted because it's something I tend to do but you made me appreciate that it has meaning in and of itself. Here's to you making "pinky promises" to yourself! (great term, BTW)

  5. Wow! These photos really are worth a thousand words. That area is so beautiful in its desert simplicity. I often think deserts are the most magical of places, even when they're dark and cold. Thank you for sharing your adventure with us. (Fellow blog hopper, so no need to enter me into the drawing.)

    1. Thanks, Cassandra, for stopping by. I believe it's the very "desert simplicity" that the monks have sought out.

  6. What a fascinating tour you had and were kind enough to take us along, even if only through your excellent blog post. You're so right about keeping those promises we make to ourselves.

    1. Thanks, Nancy. I'm always happy to "take you along."

  7. Beautiful photos and words, as always!

    1. Thanks, Kelley, I appreciate your praise!

  8. Thank you so much for taking me along on your adventure. The monasteries are fascinating and beautiful, as is the countryside and that bird! that beautiful hoopoe! So amazing. I totally agree with auntiejenni that first I must make promises to myself and then thank you for the inspiration to keep them! Awesome post! PS ... I'm in the blog hop too so no need to enter me in the draw ;))

    1. Barb, thanks for stopping by and do get going with some promises to yourself!

  9. Just WOW!!!!! Gorgeous photos and what an amazing adventure. I can relate exactly to that feeling that you experienced by keeping your word to yourself. Honoring yourself feels so fulfilling! ~Andrea (fellow blog hopper)

    1. Andrea, yes, "fulfilling" is the right word for the experience of keeping a promise to yourself. Thanks for stopping by.