The First Couple of Days

Saturday, July 4, 2015

The limo arrived at Willow Valley with Clark McSparren and Jim Stewart already on board, having been its first stop in Lititz. The Sabinos and I climbed in and driver Juan whisked us to Newark/Liberty Airport in 2 ½ hours.

After checking in at El Al Airlines, Jim Sabino recanted his experience with over-weight carry-on luggage. He told us that he was forced to remove two items, one of which was the journal; but Clark and I thought he said “urinal,” so you can image the good laugh we had over that one!

Later, we found a Chili’s where we had a bite to eat. We went through Security, noting that only one TSA agent was doing all the work while the others goofed off. We still had an hour before our 10:30 pm boarding time, so we stopped at a bar for a pre-boarding drink. Image our delight as the bartender carded us (we’re all senior citizens) except for Kathi Sabino; must’ve been because she’s Swiss. (Actually, she was just having a coke.) We had a jolly good time getting in the spirit for our 11-hour red-eye flight to Israel.

Once we were airborne, the attendants pulled down the window shades to darken the interior; some passengers immediately went to sleep while the flight attendants started serving dinner to others. Knowing that experiencing the food was part of the journey, I opted for the Thai chicken with basmati rice; yum! By 1 am ET my eyes were drooping and it was lights out on Day 1.

 Sunday, July 5, 2015

About 8 hours into the flight 11-hour flight, the attendants woke us with the smell of coffee. After a hot breakfast, we had time to freshen up. Upon opening the shades, we were over the Mediterranean Sea with beautiful blue skies above. The long slow eastward descent from the sea towards land was spectacular. I could barely wrap my head around the fact that 21st century technology was delivering us to the place where Christ walked the land over 2,000 years ago.

We arrived at Ben Gurion International Airport, and got in line for passport clearance. The other four pilgrims went sailing through, but my agent gave me the third degree; good thing I had all the documentation about the St. George’s College course we were taking. I finally cleared that security check looking for the rest when I spotted Reverend Lauren taking my picture as I legally entered Israel!

Father Rob was already helping the others find their luggage in the crowded baggage claim area. He did a great job earning his new title of Sherpa!

Before long Rob found our limo driver, an Arab Palestinian; we got our luggage loaded and headed east to Jerusalem, taking the scenic route. It was a hot afternoon, but low humidity. Time for hats and sunglasses. The scenery enroute revealed homes nestled on hilltops with caldrons on the roofs to catch rain water. Apparently Israel has offered to help California with their drought.

We arrived at St. George’s College shortly after six and were greeted by the course director, Rev. Mike and his wife Judy. We were shown to our rooms, then given a brief orientation.

We headed out on foot to the recommended eateries. But, it is now Ramadan when Muslims fast from sun up to sun down. Hence, the local restaurants were only serving a big buffet meal. Some of us just wanted a light supper, others a full meal. So we split up into two groups. The Sabinos, Clark and Jim went to a restaurant on the college campus which would serve a light meal, Ross joined the Schoecks and went down the street to the buffet.

And now much needed sleep awaits us. End of Day 2.

Ross Fairweather

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