Monday, November 4, 2013

Tel Aviv, Israel Day 1 and 2: November 3rd & 4th, 2013

As promised we are now in Israel for our twelve day pilgrimage.   I’m way past my bedtime as we’ve been traveling since Sunday morning and it is now Monday morning in California and nearly ten o’clock at night here in Israel.

Our tour leader, Fr. Paw Lwin of St. Martin’s Parish in Yorba Linda, with the help of Nick, one of our group, arranged for a bus to take most of us to LAX together from Yorba Linda.  What a blessing.  By 9:30 am on Sunday we were on our way.   Father John had asked the parish to bless us at Saturday evening Mass, my sister Mary in Florida lit a candle for us in Florida and daughter Mary say a very beautiful prayer over each of us before we left.  
Once on the bus we all prayed the Glorious Mysteries decade of the Rosary together.  This will be a very different trip; definitely a Pilgrimage and not a “tour”.    We flew direct from LAX to the Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv on El Al Israel Airlines.
  It was fourteen hours long; we moved our clocks ahead ten hours as we left Los Angeles and there went Day One!
An interesting note on the airplane was the gentleman who had purchased a seat for his Cello.  I understand that he is well known in Glasgow for classical music.  We don’t know his name but it added some spice to the trip when it took four airline crew members to get him to agree to let them store his instrument during the take-off and landing.  Otherwise he was very congenial and other than putting on his sunglasses and being the first person out of the tourist class; he was a regular guy.
Most of us were up and down in between movies; the aisles were very busy but the crew kept their smiles on and moved around us. 
About 4 o’clock we found sandwiches in the rear of the airplane when we walked back there to exercise and use the facilities.  Overall it was an A+ ride except for the narrow space for legs for the tall guys!
Our guide met us at the airport when we arrived and we were all through customs and on the bus by 3:30 pm.  He will be with us the entire trip as well as the same bus and driver.  Both are very knowledgeable and pleasant.  The guide is extremely well versed in the bible and painted visual images of the words in the bible about the places we will visit over the next ten days.  He said that when we return home we will no longer see “words” as we read the bible but see images as we remember the sites that we will visit during our stay.  
A word about the Ben Gurion Airport:  beautiful but lots of security.  The airport is surrounded by two tall fences with a wide area between them.  Terminal 3 where we arrived is very new and quite beautiful; spacious with lots of glass. 
Leaving the airport we traveled North on Highway One to our first stop in Jaffa.  Located on the seashore it has the church of St. Peter.  I wish I could remember all the bible information that was given to us but the memory banks were just too tired and maybe I was busy taking too many photos out the bus windows! 
A beautiful church; another group had scheduled a Mass before us so we used a side chapel for our first Mass of the Pilgrimage.   The church is staff by Franciscans so I was delighted to see the very unusual Crucifix on the wall that was so prevalent in Assisi just a few weeks ago during my visit there during the feast day celebration of St. Francis.   Father Paw kept the Mass short so we wouldn’t all fall asleep; but it was very meaningful as so much of what was said related to our visit here in Israel.  Afterwards we enjoyed the vistas over the Mediterranean Sea and the views of the city of Tel Aviv in the distance.  Smog…yes…they definitely have it!   But we’ve learned that it is safe to drink the water here; a change from when we were in Egypt and Jordan back in 2005 (if I remember correctly). 
On the bus and headed for the hotel; the tour guide announced that we had WiFi in the hotels and on the bus.  Well; that ended everything as we all whipped out our tablets and cell phones and started searching the web.  For those without Skype the Guide suggested that they download the app for jack something or other…I have Skype so didn’t listen too well.  But we were all wide awake and our fingers were flying for those that had devices that they could get to in the bus.
But it did keep us awake and we arrived at the Hotel about 6:30 pm.   Time enough to get into our rooms, freshen up and go down to a delicious dinner here at the hotel.  We had dinner companions from another tour group that is also staying at the same hotel.  We’ve discovered that they are following just about the same schedule of stops and hotels so we’ll probably be seeing more of them.   The group is from a Baptist Church in Pomona, California.
After dinner Jim and I headed outside and walked along the beach for about a mile.  That should settle the dinner and help us sleep.  A reminder for those that can see the slideshow below; click on the photos and it should take you to my Picsasweb for larger photos.
I hope you enjoy the slideshow: 

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