Trip Report: Israel, March 13-22

Old Mar 30th, 2006, 03:28 PM
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Trip Report: Israel, March 13-22

(Bear in mind that my report is from MY perspective...that of a conservative Christian....*smile*)

Lila Tov! (Hebrew for "good evening&quot!

Where to begin? My heart overflows at the very thought.

I did not "journal" this trip. I have done that in the past at least twice (or was it three?) times, but, it really is time consuming and I simply didn't do it this time.

So, I shall share about the trip...........please bear with me.....it may seem a bit rambling and disjointed!

I left home on Monday, March 13th at 4 a.m. My flight out of Indianapolis to JFK (via Washington DC's Dulles Airport) left at 6 a.m. and we are about 45 minutes from the airport, so, thus an early start was vital.

Arriving in JFK by 9:30 a.m. gave 10 full hours to spend in that airport. This was because our original flight out of JFK to Tel Aviv was cancelled and everybody already had their plans from their hometowns to JFK arranged and tickets bought. So we all had anywhere from 8--10 hours in the airport. That made for a very, very long day. It was, of course, made much more enjoyable by the fact that there were very dear people to fellowship with.

Beginning the El Al security process a full 3 hours before our flight was to leave at 7:30 was "old hat" to me, but, a very new experience for our 1st time travelers. El Al does a face to face "interview" with each person going on the flight plus a very thorough examination of all luggage etc. With 400+ people on the flight you can see it is a very lengthy process, however, we were fortunate in that our group was all there and ready to start through as soon as El Al opened for business for that 7:30 p.m. flight that we were booked on.

It is an interesting experience to fly El Al to Israel as many of the passengers are Jews either going for a trip there or returning to their homes there. The Orthodox men gather in the back of the plane (or wherever it works out best for them) for their prayers.............

For some this flight is their first experience with Kosher food! You are fed two full meals plus a snack and as many beverages as you want or need. After the period when the cabin is darkened for sleeping (the flight takes around 10+ hours) you are awakened by a flight attendant offering a hot towel for wiping face/hands. Very refreshing!

Arrival into Tel Aviv was around 1 p.m. (Remember Israel is 7 hours ahead of our time here in the Midwest)..........we went through passport control and on to get our luggage. I might mention that for me (and any other person who carries ministry/missionary supplies along) it is a challenge (especially at my age of 54 LOL) to manage luggage. I take the maximum amount allowed without having to pay overage. That is 2 pieces of checked bags that can weigh up to 50 pounds each plus a carry on that can weigh 17 (they don't ever check the weight on those....thankfully).........and in my case I take a large BOX instead of two actual checked suitcases. Curt puts a strap around it so that I can wrestle it as needed.

On our Sunday we had a rather unique (for nowadays) experience when we got to go to Hebron/Kiryat Arba to the tomb of several Old Testament patriarchs. Not many go there any more because of the Palestinian occupation, however, we certainly didn't feel any less than safe. As an extra precaution we were taken on an armored bus with bulletproof windows. After our visit to the tombs our tour guide (a fabulous man named Moti Dagan....around 70 years old.....a Holocaust survivor!) asked if we would like to go to City Hall and meet the mayor (an old friend of his!). All of the group were in agreement so off we went to a very nice city hall and we were ushered into the mayor's boardroom and served cold drinks and the mayor spent about 30+ minutes with us addressing us and answering questions. I have a nice picture of that and will post in a separate thread.

Also on our Sunday most of our group (we had our afternoon "free&quot chose to go to church at the 5 p.m. service at King of Kings Community Church in Jerusalem. The church has nice facilities, however, they are in a shopping mall and you have to go through security to get inside....quite an interesting experience for Americans! The service was wonderful. This is the church that my friends, missionaries Raymond and Kathryn Hain, attend.

Later in the evening Raymond and Kathryn came to our hotel for a meeting with our group and to receive all of the items that we had carried to Israel for the various ministries that they work in............baby's and children's clothing, candy, flannelgraph teaching sets, crayons, coloring books, CD's, pencils etc.................they spoke to us about all of what they do and then spent a lot of time answering questions.

Dr. Miller and Dr. Hamilton baptized 9 people in the Jordan River. This is really always a highlight of these trips.........the chance to be baptized in the same river that Jesus was baptized in by John! WOW! I experienced this myself in the past and I always enjoy standing on the bank and watching the baptisms. We sing songs while it is going on (I was the official psalmist for this trip..... )........it was very nice. Three of those baptized are Bible college students......one from Bulgaria, one from Romania, one from Costa Rica. They were so sweet.

The weather was glorious while we were gone. March is one of the few times that it rains in Israel, but, we had just one day when it rained and that was short-lived. The skies are gloriously blue and the weather was never bad........somewhat cool in the evenings at Jerusalem (higher elevation), but, was nice and warm during the days....in fact the last couple of days we were there were almost hot!

Spending time in the "old city" of Jerusalem (the walled portion......"old" city as opposed to the rest of Jerusalem which is really quite modern and looks "western"...).........is always a privilege. We went to the Western Wall for prayer. It is partitioned off......one side for men and one side for women. The men have to wear the kippah on their heads.....they are available to borrow. It is a tradition for people to write their prayer requests on a piece of paper and fold it up tiny and leave it there in the cracks of the wall.

Because of the Palestinian control of the Temple Mount it is not a place that "pilgrims" often visit now. I was able, through a contact in Jerusalem, to arrange a very, very good tour of the entire Temple Mount area for our group. Of course, we were not permitted to go inside the buildings there, but, just to have this tour (the area is HUGE....hard to even picture it) and to have it done by someone so very knowledgeable of the history etc. was a true privilege. One of our ladies was confronted immediately upon our arrival on the Temple Mount and told to "cover up". She had a tiny slit at the bottom of her skirt and the Palestinian guard there demanded that she pin it shut or LEAVE. She just used her name badge to pin it. I told her to simply consider it as an "adventure".

For a "fun outing" we visited the Dead Sea where those who so desired donned swimsuits and floated in the water......it is impossible to swim because of the high salt content. The mud is very good for your skin and I have some great pics of our Bible College students covered in mud! As for me I sat on the shore up at the pavilion where I sipped on freshly squeezed orange juice! YUM!

Visiting Masada is always amazing............even after several visits there it is not at all boring to me. Here's a link where you can read about its history if you would like to. It is totally fascinating. You get to the top via tram. http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/...y/Masada1.html

We were allowed into Bethlehem. I can remember going when this was not an issue. This was before the whole town was given over into Palestinian control. Nowadays, the whole town is surrounded by a wall and you have to go through security and a border crossing to get there. If you have a Jewish guide and driver your guide and driver cannot even go with you. You are met on the "Israel" side by a Christian or Muslim guide and walked across the border and through security and met on the other side by a bus and a new driver (a Christian or Muslim)........we visited the Church of the Nativity which is built over the site where our Savior Jesus Christ was born and laid in a manger. You can go down below the church and view this site. We also did some shopping in an olive wood shop there that is owned and operated by Christians who have lived there for generations. They get tears in their eyes when they greet people who come into Bethlehem. I always want to spend LOTS of money there to help them.....and I do spend as much as I can (although it isn't a lot).....and our whole group shopped there so I know it was a blessing. They beg for our prayers as they do their best to let the light of Jesus shine in a place where it is very difficult.

The first 3 nights of our trip we spent near Afula at Kibbutz Nof Tavor. It was disconcerting to me because I couldn't get my phone card to work and therefore couldn't call home. Curt and I ordinarily talk daily when I am overseas, but, this time it just didn't happen. However, they did have an "internet room" and I was able to send him a couple of emails.

The remainder of the trip we spent in Jerusalem at the Renaissance Hotel in the Royal Wing. We were pleased with the accommodations and with the food and dining room.

The whole experience of staying in a "Kosher hotel" is quite interesting.....especially when experiencing it for the first time.

Going to Yad Vashem (the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem) was a "first" for most of our group. It was my first time going there since the major renovations that have taken place. We allowed two full hours there and honestly we could have easily stayed twice that long in order to view everything and give it the time it really deserved. I was absolutely shocked (and more than a little aggravated, frankly) when I realized that we had a couple of folks in our group who simply had no real grasp at all about what happened in the Holocaust. This was even AFTER our tour guide (a survivor of the Holocaust) stood outside for about 20 minutes with our whole group explaining about his family's experience before our group entered the museum.

Perhaps my favorite area of Israel is the Galilee area..........Tiberius and the surrounding towns. I could just drive around and look and then sit and stare and relax.......for DAYS on end and be very happy. We did find time to take the group on a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee which is very relaxing and peaceful. When I am on that water I can just so very easily envision my Jesus walking on that water and coming to the boat I am in. Then I shift my focus just a bit back to the land surrounding the water and think of all that Jesus did on those shores! WOW! We even had lunch at a restaurant that serves what is called "St. Peter's fish" which is tilapia. A very delicious meal......topped off by a plate of fresh dates (HUGE dates) to share with those at our table. Yum!

One of the most amazing things about Israel, to me, is the amazing topography. There are beautiful fertile areas that have been cultivated and much produce is grown there. There are flat areas. Then there are the mountains. AMAZING! AND the deserts are the most desolate areas I have ever seen in my life. I always think of Jesus and the 40 days he spent in the Judean wilderness.....................

There are "4 quarters" in the old city of Jerusalem...........the Jewish, the Armenian, the Christian and the Arab. It is really fascinating to walk through and see all of the wares for sale and to do some shopping AND some tasting! Wonderful breads and confections and produce. It was strawberry season when we were there this time.

Seeing the constant military presence in the country is "different".....but, not disturbing. In fact, it is comforting to know that all that protection is there. Honestly, I never feel less than perfectly safe. I cannot WAIT to get back to Israel!

And now let me say "Todah Rabah" for taking the time to read all of this.

Kathy
Paragon, Indiana, USA
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Old Mar 31st, 2006, 04:10 AM
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Toda Rabah for posting such a lovely report. My husband and I are going to Israel this summer (first time). We are very excited. Your trip sounded very interesting and made for a very interesting read.
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Old Mar 31st, 2006, 04:41 AM
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Hello Kathy,
As Israeli I enjoy to read your Artical,
I loved every word
Erez
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Old Mar 31st, 2006, 12:29 PM
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Thanks for sharing your experiences kathy. It is a shame that parts of Israel are not accessible to everyone due to the fighting factions. I'm glad you were able to return to those sites that are so important to your faith.
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Old Apr 2nd, 2006, 11:09 PM
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Hi Kathy,

Your report was amazing; particularly your details about Galilee & Bethlehem, I had tears in my eyes while reading it. It made my forthcoming trip (5 weeks time) more real and exciting.

Just a few questions:

Regarding the clothing; you mentioned at Temple Mount a lady with a small slit in her skirt had to pin it up. Would this kind of thing only happen there? Our tour leader has said that capri pants are suitable, and basically anything under the knee. I have a lot of long skirts with slits (not even to the knee) and now I'm wondering if they will be acceptable. Did you have to cover your head anywhere? We've been told to take scarves.

Can you also tell me what this "face-to-face" interview at the El Al check-in involves?

And Yad Vasham - our pastor (as well as another friend who recently went to Israel) strongly recommended that I did NOT go there but wait outside rather. They both feel that I am too emotional to handle it, especially the children's section. What do you suggest? Are there separate entrances & exits, or would I be able to turn around and leave if I couldn't deal with it?

Thanks for your help!
Jen

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Old Apr 3rd, 2006, 05:52 PM
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Jen,

Suzanne, who arranged our Temple Mount tour, explained to us that there is basically no rhyme or reason as to what may be seen as unacceptable up on Temple Mount. Overall the thing about capris being okay would be correct....but, this one location seems very unpredictable because it is at the discretion of those working security there that particular day. I would say that better safe than sorry (just my own opinion) and I would wear a skirt or dress with no slit just for that day and certainly do not go sleeveless!

Women are not required to cover their heads anywhere in the country that I am aware of. Men are! (For example at the Western Wall and at King David's tomb etc.)........the kippah(sp?) are provided for loan.

El Al's face to face one on one interview........totally polite and professional....and the questions are quite random. You may be asked a huge variety of questions....from where your mother was born to "why" you are going to Israel to what you have packed in your baggage and "why"? Answer clearly and honestly and you will do fine. Bear in mind that it is all for your safety. I choose to fly El Al even when there are other airlines available because I appreciate their extra measures of security plus, of course, I like patronizing an Israeli business.

Yad Vashem........I am not sure how emotional you are. Yes, it is a very touching, gut-wrenching place....but, I cannot imagine not going there (at least once!) I am certainly do not know you personally and your pastor certainly DOES......so, I'm not going to tell you not to heed what he says. There are exits other than the main one (I am not sure how many.....). You could head for an exit at any time. The set-up is zig-zag (hard to describe .....you'll see what I mean if you do choose to go) and there's no reason you cannot get out when/if you want to leave before seeing it all. The children's memorial is another thing that I cannot imagine missing. I don't want to spoil it for you (that sounds weird...but, I know what I mean *smile*)....but the way it is done, in my opinion (it is in a separate building) is very unique and very dignified. If you would like me to answer any more details just write me privately at [email protected] I hope I have been of some help to you.

You are going to fall in love with Israel and its people!

I can't WAIT to get back!

Kathy
Paragon, Indiana, USA
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Old Apr 4th, 2006, 04:47 AM
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Many (most?) people leave Yad VaShem with tears in their eyes. It is nothing to be ashamed of! If you do find it too overwhelming of course you can walk out at any time - and will find many sympathetic people wherever you come out of the building.

This is a decision that only you can make. I do thnk that it is a very important experience and would encourage you to try it if you can. Don't force yourself however, only if you are aware going in that you may leave at any time and that too is acceptable. Many people do.

Re clothing: In Israel basically anything goes. In the religious areas - all religions - a certian amount of modesty is required. A head scarf is a good idea. Just keep it in your bag at all times to have it handy as needed. Your guide will tell you when you should wear a skirt rather than short pants or capris. Regular long pants are as acceptable as skirts most anywhere. Slits in skirts should end before they reach the knee.

Welcome and enjoy your visit!
 
Old Apr 4th, 2006, 06:17 AM
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I've been to Yad VaShem several times but hadn't seen the new addition (the "zig-zag" hall) until a couple of months ago. My take:

The layout of Yad VaShem leads the (typical) visitor through the new museum and toward the Hall of Rememberance, then the Childrens Memorial before leading back to the reception building and exit (obviously there is much more, but that's the typical route.)

The power of the museum, Hall of Names, Hall of Rememberance, and the Avenue of the Righteous is such that putting the Children's Memorial at what for most people is the end of the tour is - just my opinion - too much.

I fear that many visitors are already too overwhelmed by the images of what they've seen before, to be able to accept the (admittedly tastefully presented) message of the Children's Memorial. It needs a second visit, but unfortunately many of the visitors to Yad VaShem are not likely to come back in the immediate future. So the choice given visitors is to see the Children's Memorial and risk exiting the site just shattered, or to skip it and miss out on its beautiful, spiritual message.

IMO Yad VaShem's management should (and they most likely are) evaluate the directions and recommended routes for visitors so that the expansion of the memorial doesn't diminish the experience because visitors are too numb by the time they get to the end of the tour.
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Old Apr 4th, 2006, 10:59 PM
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Thank you all so much for your help and advice! It is very much appreciated.

Jen
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Old Jun 20th, 2006, 07:18 AM
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Your trip sounds exciting! I'm interested if there's a link to King of Kings church? I'm thankful that there
are missionaries in Jerusalem, what is your friends' work like? Do you also have experience with helping the "not-so-free" Christians here in the US, or know who does?
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Old Jun 24th, 2006, 01:53 AM
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http://www.kkcj.org/ is website for the King of Kings Community.

Church School Services is a bookshop right up the street from the Garden Tomb and it sells Christian materials all written in Arabic.

I am unsure about the rest of your question (not sure what you mean).....Not familiar with the term "not so free Christians" in the USA.

Kathy

Paragon, Indiana, USA
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Old Jan 21st, 2007, 06:07 PM
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I was surfing around the board looking for info on El Al and I'm so glad I discovered this lovely report. I'm leaving for Israel on Feb. 1 and I was looking for info on El Al. I still haven't found all of the info I need for El Al, but what a joy to read your report.

I have another question about the interview w/El Al. You said the process takes 3 hours. I had planned to arrive at the TLV airport at least 3 hours before my flight home, but do I need to get to the gate at JFK 3 hours early in order to do the interview in NY?
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Old Jan 22nd, 2007, 02:57 AM
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P_M,

You need to be at the airport at least 3 hours ahead for El-Al flights between the US and Israel.

I would recommend even 3.5 hours for JFK check-in, at least if you have a saturday flight, as I once came a little under 3 hours and El-Al and San-D'or (El-Al's subsidiary charter airline) flights were both overbooked and mixed in line, because the Sun D'or (which flies on Saturdays) got delayed well past Saturday evening and El-Al started shifting the Orthodox religious passengers and others (they got compensated, of course) into the Sun D'or flight, because it was due to leave at the same time as the El-Al flight, after Sabbath has "exited".

At the end I got a boarding pass for the El-Al flight, but that was a big mess.

The earlier you arrive, the earlier you can clear security and reach the check in counter and get a boarding pass.

Don't overdo it though, I'm not sure how early they open the security clearance, it is usually around 3+ hours before the flight. If you get in 3.5 hours ahead, you can get a good place in line and not wait too much for the security checks to start.

Elad.
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