My Trip to Israel: Five Questions With Mandy

Yes, between all the “exposing corruption” and “exploring solutions” POGO staffers do occasionally sneak away for a vacation now and again. The Watercooler recently caught up with POGO national security investigator Mandy Smithberger for a quick rundown of her adventure in Israel, which had the incredible timing to coincide with Washington’s biggest snowstorm in ages. Here, she offers a snapshot of the trip by filling in the blanks:

Best meal: There was no real “stand out” meal, just lots of good, fresh food. I came away with a new appreciation for falafel and eggplant, though I can still take or leave hummus (editors note: Papa Smithberger reportedly raved about the desserts).

Moment you realized you definitely were not in the United States of America: There wasn’t snow everywhere! I left town right before snowpocalypse. But on a more serious note, probably the security everywhere — the Israeli guards around the Old City, and the Tourist police in Jordan.

New word learned in a language other than English: Yalla — Arabic for hurry up.

Favorite building or piece of architecture: Definitely Masada. It was amazing to see King Herod the Great’s baths, how he built into the rocks, and the cistern system. And of course there’s the story of the mass suicide of the Jews there to avoid being enslaved or killed by the Romans.

Overall most memorable activity / tour: There were so many things. I was particularly interested in the places where the stories in the Bible could be verified with archeological truth, especially seeing the Olive trees in the Garden of Gethsemane. Riding into Petra on horseback — as touristy and hokey as that is — was a great way to see one of the most beautiful sites in the world. It’s also hard to beat going to where Jesus was bapitzed in the River Jordan. Finally, I think it can be easy to forget about the role of women in faith, so seeing the Church of Visitation — which is largely devoted to Mary and Elizabeth, but also honors other women of religious significance — was a unique and memorable site.


Experience that reminded you most of POGO: My mom asking our guide a question that hit a little too close to home.

Stay tuned for more dispatches from around the world!

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