Upon entering a famous coffee shop, I ordered my standard Israeli cappuccino, one that is strong yet creamy smooth. The girl behind the counter asked my name for the order. "Doug," I replied. Learning Hebrew, I know you pronounce the word fish, "Dahg" and seeing her curious bewilderment, I sensed what was coming. She looked at me with a playful smile and said in broken English "Dahg?? Like de fish…??" Having been through this before, I gave a resigned shrug and deep sigh, "…yes, like the fish…". My Israeli friends laughed, and the nickname stuck. Add my last name of "Hershey," and suddenly I have a new superhero identity. I am "chocolate fish"... but no one needs to know that. These blogs are my "Chocolate Fish Tales" and random things that happen in my travels, along the way.
Whether it's leading Ezra Adventures in Israel/Jordan, going to speaking engagements, or scouting for photo book locations and research in the Middle East, I travel a lot. It's in these journeys that I somehow find the unintentional encounters, odd happenings or just dumb luck that has created some of funny and at times, awkward stories. A couple of friends often insist I do more storytelling, so I will occasionally share some of these anecdotal tales of wrong turns, intrigue, or "that's not what I thought I ordered." I admit, I have some eclectic tastes, eccentric tendencies, and if I feel a tinge of adventure unknown in my bones or an irresistible curiosity that I can't shake, I just have trouble saying "no." Like when that 18-year-old Palestinian kid in the West Bank says to me in a thick Arabic accent, "Do you want to see 3000-year-old Israelite palace..?" As one of our regular Ezra travelers likes to say in her US southern accent, "Does a bear poop in the woods?!? (that's Virginian for "YES! Duuuuh!!")" Seriously, who is going to say no to an offer like that?? "Of course, show me!" I replied with a curious smile to my young friend, and off we went. As a result, I walked right into the pages of the bible, into the un-excavated palace of Ahab and Jezebel, in a place that few have ever seen.
Truth be told, while I enjoy introducing these biblical lands to our Ezra Adventures travelers and have liked my steep learning curve for the increasing TV and radio interviews in the last year, it's the mini adventures that I stumble upon in between that I enjoy most. I would much rather be discovering the unexpected hospitality from people from a completely different culture or the adrenaline of avoiding the occasional Palestinian riots (I've accidentally driven through 2). From sheep liver lunches to massages gone wrong, to wondering if my coffee date really IS a spy, to hanging on to the back of a speeding dented old pick up truck while chasing camels through the Jordanian desert… such are things that happen when you live by "I'll try anything once…" Well, almost anything. Most of that time that's worked out ok… so far, so good.
Aside from some raised eyebrows or a heartwarming chuckle, I hope that you'll be inspired. Take the risk and live a little, step out of your fears, and have a look at what could be around the corner. I hope you'll join me in "Chocolate Fish Tales."
Doug Hershey is the author of Israel Rising, conference speaker and founder of Ezra Adventures, an Israel focused travel and education company. From years of hands-on experience, cultivating unique relationships in Israel and a love for history, Doug provides a rare perspective on the connection between the Jewish Scriptures and present day Israel. When he is not in Israel, he is speaking in churches and synagogues about the prophesied restoration of Israel.