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. Already learning some basic Hebrew, I knew the pronunciation of the word "fish", is "Dahg". 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" that document the curiously strange characters, lighthearted adventures and the occasional meaningful lessons happen along the way in my middle eastern travels.
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 an unshakable tinge of adventure unknown in my bones, 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!!") "I would love see that palace...!", 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 an un-excavated palace from Ahab and Jezebel, in a place that few have ever seen. Or the time that the old, crotchety sharp tongued beach bum turned out the founder of several museums around Israel with a personal old photo collection that rivaled the national archives. Or the time when my new driver into a particular restricted area boastfully said to me "Don't worry, my friend, I have the Palestinian police in my pocket." as we piled into his beat up 1981 Subaru sedan and traversed the hills of Samaria to a particular area that had been closed for months. There's a story behind them all.
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 media interviews for my books, 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."
Whether writing or speaking, Doug Hershey shares from a perspective of historian and storyteller. His accounts of Israel, the Middle East and the awakening of bible prophecy are as intriguing as they are rare. In his bestselling photo book, Israel Rising, Doug tracks 2000 years of Israel’s insurmountable history with over 100 then/now photo comparisons, all thru the lens of bible prophecy. Doug is the founder of Ezra Adventures, a boutique travel and education company, specializing in exclusive customized small group travel throughout Israel and the Middle East. Keep up with Ezra Adventures on FB and IG.