I'm writing this from the plane. El Al is a nice airline. Mostly because they offer red wine as soon as you board! The seats are wider than some airlines and there is more leg room, but we'll see how I feel at the end of the flight. We're on our way to Tel Aviv. Security is very tight. We were interviewed by a young man and I even had my purse checked and Allan got scanned.
We discovered that they have lost our return tickets and didn't want to let us on board. Allan volunteered to stay another day or two in the Holy Land, if they need us to.
Allan has also decided that the Hebrew language is really just a lot of throat clearing.
We met some of the tour group, including three sisters from the Toronto area, one of whom has a daughter who married a Phinney from New Brunswick and who took her nursing training in the city in which I was born.
On the plane, we had our first taste of Kosher food. No milk products with supper as per the Rabbi of El Al's instructions. And we will soon learn that El El Al is the only airline that does not fly on Saturday.
It was nearly noon when we arrived, and though we're jetlagged, we're all keyed up.
There we met Rafe, our tour guide. We were given Whispers, small radio receivers on lanyards, with individual earpieces. Our guide had the transmitter, and its microphone allowed him to whisper to us, as in most Holy Sites talking is forbidden. So we could hear him speak. Allan got a laugh out of it when Rafe would say, "Come now to where I am." But we had no idea where he was.
Our first stop was Joppa, or Jaffa as we might know it. (Thank you Ed!) It's an ancient town beside Tel Aviv. It means Hill of Spring. There are tons of cats, most fairly friendly because of cat lovers coming and feeding them. We saw one woman that night in Netanya feeding them from a huge bucket she'd brought down to the boardwalk late in the evening.
We saw a jewelry maker who works with Femo, a polymer clay, who'd learned to squish an image of Marilyn Monroe down to the size of a grain of rice. The shop had a 'Mysterious Room' which was a cave deep downstairs.
Near this shop is the home where Peter was when he had a vision about clean and unclean food.
Around the corner is a statue of a whale, as it was from there that Jonah left, trying to run away from God. We learned that Jonah means 'Dove' or 'Peace'.
Joffa is steeped in Biblical history. Acts 9:36 records: Now there was in Joppa a disciple named Tabitha, which, translated,
means Dorcas. She was full of good works and acts of charity.
We learned how young Tel Aviv is and how poor the area was before World War I (It was Palestine back then). Two men who owned Macy's came to help, but one stayed longer than the other. The one brother wanted to stay and help so much, that his brother left for England before him. After frequent letters urging him not to miss his ship, the brother who stayed finally decided to leave for England. Even then, he missed his brother and the ship back to America. That ship was the Titanic. The surviving brother decided to return to Palestine to help his fellow Jews here, hiring a man whose niece was Anne Frank.
After Joppa, we drove to Caesarea, a Roman town where Cornelius was baptized as we know from Acts 10.
Now there was a man at Caesarea named Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian cohort, a
devout man and one who feared God with all his household, and gave many
alms to the Jewish people and prayed to God continually.
It's a national park now. And nearby is Israel's only golf course.
We learned a lot about this ancient town, including how Paul was imprisoned here for two years by Felix, Procurator of Judea. Our leader spoke to us about the site pictured below where you can see Rafe, in the blue Gilligan hat, wearing his microphone.
Have you ever noticed why so many statues have no heads? The early Muslims lobbed them off, as it is forbidden to have any images of people. There, we saw an amphitheatre and a Crusader castle which eventually fell to the Muslims.
Rafe walked us down to the shore, where he suggested we take a few sea shells for family back home. Allan was quick to grab a few free souvenirs.
We saw a Roman aqueduct that brought water in from 10 km away, and even saw a set of Roman toilets, right there in the main thoroughfare. I guess you can keep up with what's happening that way.
Eventually, we made it to Natanya, an ultra modern, sci-fi-like city. Our hotel had a buffet supper where we feasted on raw and cooked vegetables, lots of eggplant, fish, beef, beans, mixed salads of every configuration, and rich cake desserts. The only thing that didn't look good was the tray of orange slices and it was taken away. We've noticed a lot of juice stands around offering oranges and pomegranates freshly squeezed into juices. Our hotel room overlooked the Mediterranean Sea. We listened to the waves on our first night in Israel. Lovely. Tomorrow we head off to the Sea of Galilee, with some surprises along the way!