I had the opportunity to spend Thanksgiving break in Israel. This was not a mission trip, outreach trip, or anything else other than a sightseeing tour. But, it ended up being more than just sightseeing. I spent almost a week with 16 other people who were in some way or another associated with my high school, Providence Christian Academy. The trip was led by two of the most influential men in my life to this point who mentored me throughout high school and continue to speak into my life today. The next few posts will catalog the trip the best I can. There is no way I can write down everything we did, saw, or experienced, because I could probably start an entirely new blog of just pictures, videos, and stories from the trip. However, I will do my best to show as many pictures and videos and keep the narration to a minimum. I hope you enjoy these glimpses into Israel and, whether you have been 100 times or never step foot in the land where Christianity was born, it helps the Bible come alive in a new way for you. Enjoy.
We left on Friday, November 18th from Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta, Georgia. They had cancelled our non-stop flight to Tel-Aviv, Israel and rerouted us through New York City instead. This pushed our flight time up earlier which, in turn, meant we had to get to the airport earlier. I rode to the airport with a friend of mine who was also going on the trip, Alex. We arrived in time for our flight, went through security, and waited to board the plane. Our plane left at 2PM and arrived at JFK in NYC at 4PM. With the first leg of the trip done we had a 4-hour layover until our plane left for Tel-Aviv. So we killed four hours wandering around JFK not really looking forward to the amount of time we would be spending on a cramped airplane on our way to Israel. We boarded the plane on time, left on time, and spend the next 10 hours in the sky.
While 10 hours is a long time to be in a plane regardless of the time change, the time change actually made it worse. Israel is 7 hours ahead of the East Coast. That means, when it is 6:00PM in NYC it is 1:00AM in Tel-Aviv. That meant we were landing in Israel sometime around 11:00AM while our bodies would think it was 4:00AM. We were strongly encouraged to sleep on the plane, but there was no way that was happening. It was a little bit of excitement mixed with more uncomfortable airline seating that prohibited me from getting more than 3 on-and-off, interrupted hours of sleep. But, we made it to Israel.
We met our guide, Moshe Nav, boarded the bus, and headed out to the hotel we would be staying at in Tel-Aviv. Tel-Aviv is not the capital; Jerusalem is the capital. But, because of the tension in Jerusalem with different religious groups controlling different portions, Tel-Aviv became the commercial center for the country. It is very much westernized and similar to major cities in the United States. The only thing that sets it apart is that is on the Mediterranean Sea. So picture Pensacola, Florida meets Charlotte, North Carolina.
Tel-Aviv also has another name that bears Biblical significance: Jaffa (or Joppa). If you know your Bible history, two stories should come to mind. First, the story of Jonah. This was the port Jonah fled to in order to run away from what God was calling him to do. This was the city he bought passage on a boat and tried to sail away. Second, this is the place Peter was when he received the vision of the sheet coming down from heaven and Jesus said to kill and eat the unclean animals. There is a house that is traditionally claimed to be where Peter saw this vision, but we do not know the exact place.
After we settled in, we were able to walk around some of the city, take some pictures, stretch our legs, and start to understand the significance of where we were. But, to be honest, we were all pretty jet-lagged. We ended up eating dinner and crashing not long after that. While it was hard because our bodies actually thought it was daytime, after not being able to sleep on the plane, sleep was not too hard to come by. We knew we would have to be up early and ready to go. We were headed north to start off our week in the Galilee.
We had made it to Israel. I do not think I fully understood, and still do not today, how much I would see in the next week. But, we woke up every morning ready to face the day and whatever it held. All I knew was I was thankful to be there and wanted to take in as much as I could in order to better understand the Bible in hopes of better communicating the grace and love shown to us through Jesus who walked the very same lands I traveled. I had no idea what I was in for.