“I want to see the current Jerusalem before I see the new one”
A group of eleven from GCC went from March 2nd to March 11th 2012 to the Holy Land. The group from GCC (Greenville Community Church) was part of a larger group of forty-seven led by Dr. Wilbur Williams. This was the 152nd trip for Dr. Williams, who has been doing trips to the Holy Land since 1958. Since being back, I’ve had several people ask me “How was the trip?” Words can’t describe the experience; here are some of my responses:
1) Beyond awesome!
2) You know the high you get from being on a mission trip? It’s that feeling x 100
3) Incredible, a trip of a lifetime
I won’t read the bible the same after visiting Israel. As of typing this story, I experienced my first corporate worship at GCC. It was very moving and brought a perspective that I’ve not had before. While Pastor Joel was preaching, “famous last words”, he used a couple references to his trip to Israel in his sermon, my mind immediately went back to the holy land. Here is a summary my trip day by day.
From the very beginning, the trip started out as special. I got to spend Thursday evening 3/1 in Chicago with my wife. It was nice to have a special evening in such a vibrate city with her. We stayed at the Renaissance hotel, which is a 3 or 4 star hotel. The hotel offers “park, sleep, and fly”. It’s a program where a person can drive down, park and leave their car for up to two weeks using the hotel’s parking. The cost of the room was $99/night, nothing additional for parking. Kim Sutton got this idea from a person she worked with. Parking at the airport was around $30 per night.
On Friday, the hotel shuttle, which runs every 30 minutes, took us to the airport. We had a 3 hour layover in Chicago; we hooked up with Dar and Brad Kelly, who came down on Friday morning. There were a few others from the larger group. God was already working on building relationships; I got to know this guy named Bart Hall.
The three hours waiting to fly to Philadelphia went fast. The plane left about 1:30 PM local time and took about 1 hour 30 minutes to get to Philadelphia. We had a 4 hour layover in Philadelphia; we hooked up with the rest of the group. Some decided to get a bite to eat, after walking down to the gate, we headed back to the food court area, which was a bit of a hike. I was having the craving for seafood. There was a local seafood place although the prices were a bit expensive, some headed down to another area to get food. Myself, Matt and Carol Dewys decided to have some seafood.
The good news we found they offered a bowl of clam chowder for $8.50/per bowl. It was good and filling! I also tried my first glass of ‘white’ wine I believe, had a couple of ice cubes. I’m not normally a wine drinker, but it was good (thanks Carol). We talked for what felt like an hour or two. I enjoyed getting to know Matt and Carol on a more personal level, which got better as the trip went on.
I was on the lookout for some interesting things that are picture worthy. The Philadelphia airport didn’t disappoint. We discovered the Israel Gate was secured, both with a smoked cover wall so you couldn’t see inside the waiting area and metal detectors when going into the waiting area. I’ve not done a lot of traveling, but I’ve never seen a gate secured quite like this. J
Normally, I dread a 4 hour layover, the time slipped by getting know Matt, Carol and others. The flight from Philadelphia was scheduled for 10 hours, 50 minutes. My only other time flying that long was when I went to Malaysia, which was 12 ½ hours to Seoul, South Korea, then 7 hours to KL. When I got on the plane, Gerry Wilcox and I traded seats. I had the pleasure of sitting next to Dr. Wilbur Williams for the flight to Tel Aviv.
As we were getting ready to take off, we had two issues. The first was a student from IWU (Indiana Wesleyan University) was invited by Dr. Williams. The student was from Venezuela attending IWU, he has a US Visa, but not a Israel visa. I learned any US citizen has automatic visa to Israel. Citizens from Venezuela need a visa, which somehow the travel agency overlooked. We weren’t certain why this person couldn’t go. Secondly, another person came up to Dr. Williams crying and mentioning they had to get off the plane. We found out Patti was adjusting her stuff getting ready to sit down. A bag from the overhead compartment accidentally fell and hit her in the back of the head / neck area. She became nauseous, stating she had headache. Matt Dewys (who is an ER doctor and part of our group) was asked to go look at her. He cleared her although the airline staff consulted their experts, they determined with a 12 hour flight over the ocean, going to a foreign country she couldn’t stay on the plane. She was forced to leave the plane. I can understand their position although Patti had been waiting for 20 years to go to Israel had to wait. Our group was holding up the plane as the two people mentioned luggage had to be removed. This held up the plane for about 45 minutes. After seeing Patti’s response, I knew the Holy Spirit was already starting to lay experiences on my heart. I knew somehow this particular situation would be used for a story. I wasn’t sure the scripture or words, but I had a sense this situation would be something I’d write about.
After we got off the ground, the flight was mostly uneventful, or so I thought. I got a chance to talk to Dr. Williams a little bit, nothing stands out about we talked about. If I’d had access to the internet, we’d had more to talk about as we’d reviewed some of my writings. The flight served dinner, then we went to sleep, we had night for most of the flight, which made sleeping easier. The seat was VERY uncomfortable, which made sleeping not easy. It reminded me of being at a high school game, where the benches are not usually too comfortable. I did catch a few hours of rest here and there.
Additionally, like my flight to Malaysia, I had movies and music available, which I watched a couple movies. One of them I remember was called “In Time”. I also heard a song while in Chicago by Adele, “Set fire to the rain”. I listened to that a few times, this song probably became the ‘theme’ song for the trip for me personally. Seems like when I go on an extended trip, there is one or two songs that seem to become something I hear and remember the trip. I later learned while on the plane, a person on the other side who was in the same row as me stood up and passed out or something. Matt Dewys was engaged as this event happened right next to him. The report was this person was dragged to the back of the plane, and Matt administered an IV. I don’t have any more details on why this person needed assistance. One last interesting thing during the flight, I was up stretching my legs, the flight attendant was resting up against someone seat, I asked her if she needed to go by me, she said no and she was watching a passenger who was acting, strangely. That is the last thing a person wants to hear, especially going to Israel. J
We landed in Tel Aviv after about 10 ½ hours of flying. The captain mentioned due to the medical situation, the tech’s on the ground needed to check with the guy who Matt worked on earlier so everyone was required to stay in their seats. The same guy who was being watched earlier just got up and started walking around, the flight attendant asked, “What are you doing?” The guy acted weird, but the medical technicians didn’t do much, so we could un-board without incident.
In Israel Finally!
I had my camera(s) out and looking for anything picture worthy. Being a geek by trade, I’m looking for BSOD (blue screen of death). Here is one of the first pictures I seen at the baggage area.
I got this idea from Mark Russinovich who takes pictures of blue screens (or did). As I was walking off the plane, I was taking some random pictures with my little pocket camera. A couple warned me nicely that I shouldn’t be taking pictures. J I was taking pictures of wall art, which if someone wanted me to remove, I would have. I did see a picture of a goat, which Heather and Tim Parker would appreciate. They had recently gotten a goat named pepe.
Dar, Brad and myself made it through customs without any issues after collecting our bags. While waiting for the others, I captured a picture of the airport just before going to the general area.
The area by the smoked glass is left clear. Brad, Dar and I were standing there for a few minutes while waiting and were asked to move to the general area. Luckily, our luggage made it without incident and along with the rest of the group boarded the bus to Arad, our first stop.
After boarding the bus, we headed to Arad.
We saw a rainbow when leaving the airport located in Tel Aviv.
I couldn’t believe the scenery. The bible talks about the land of milk and honey. The tour guide mentioned this area had more rain than normal, which was a blessing.
We stopped at our first stop where there was the legendary battle of David and Goliath (1 Samuel 17) Here is a panoramic view of the battle. It was simply amazing!
As you’ll notice, the weather was overcast with some light rain and fog. We arrived in Tel Aviv around 4:30 PM local time. The terrain was flowing with a variety of trees, rocks, valleys and vineyards. This was my first opportunity to see some “old rocks” as I would later classify them. I was corrected; these are “ancient” rocks. It is hard to believe these rocks are a couple thousand years old.
When I mentioned unique things, here is some cactus, unique eh?!
We climbed on the bus, something I would get accustomed to and enjoy. We drove a short way and saw another location. We stopped at Tel Lakhish.
This was a pretty ancient location. After visting Tel Lakhish (Are you sensing a pattern, Tel Aviv, Tel Lakhish) . We boarded the bus and headed to Arad. After about 1 to 2 hours, we made it to our first hotel.
Day one in Israel was “in the books”. The one thing I learned, the “land of milk and honey” came to life.
We stayed at the Inbar hotel. When we arrived, several of us were sitting in the lobby surfing the web. The lobby had a couple couches, they provided us travels the SSID and Password, us geeks were happy! and when having breakfast, got my first picture with a local gentleman who was kind enough to allow a picture.
Here is a picture of Avi, the local security guy at the hotel. He was a bit over 2 meters, (6’ 7”)