My family had the extraordinary opportunity to travel to the Holy Land earlier this month for Spring Break. As we traveled I posted highlight photos and captions on Instagram, but as I have returned home and attempted to process all we experienced, I felt led to write a few posts elaborating a bit more on the sites, people and lessons as we recall them.
I explained a bit about this in my previous post, but even how this trip came to be felt ordained. My husband & I share a love for foreign travel and our children are in a sweet spot age at almost-13. All three are interested in geography, history, adventure and culture. The food can be a bit of a challenge for 2/3 of the trio, but it just adds to the growth opportunities! ;-)
The first week of March is a strange time for worldwide travel weather-wise, so as we walked through our travel bucket list (Galapagos, Machu Picchu, Africa and Australia are the current dream top 4) the timing/budget didn't quite seem to fit. We researched several other destinations before starting to seriously consider the UAE. It was totally different than anywhere else we've traveled, relatively safe and would take us to continent we had yet to explore. We had just gotten comfortable with the idea of traveling to the Middle East when our monthly Young Life magazine arrived. As I was flipping through it I noticed an advertisement for a trip to the Holy Land for alumni and supporters of the ministry. The dates were the same as our break. There were no age restrictions listed on the trip, so I reached out to the organizer to see if she felt the trip would be appropriate for K, P & R. She consulted with the lead tour guide and with their blessing we placed our deposit and got excited.
On the day of departure, we picked the children up at school at 2pm and journeyed to Atlanta for our 6pm flight. Upon check-in we were informed there were problems with our tickets causing a nerve-wracking 50 minute delay as we were completely rebooked. I am not a superstitious person, but this obstacle did make me momentarily question if we were meant to go. Then, as we arrived at the boarding gate there was yet another problem which delayed our boarding--and induced a bit of anxiety. Once all was cleared up and we were on board, peace prevailed. There was honestly not one other fearful moment in the next 9 days of Middle Eastern travel.
Our itinerary included a two hour flight to NYC where we changed planes and had to completely clear security all over again. By 11pm we were on board our 11 hour flight to Tel Aviv. Sleeping on a plane is ridiculously uncomfortable, but with sleeping masks and a little Melatonin we did our best.
Our flight arrived in Tel Aviv at 4pm local time on Friday. After collecting all our bags we gathered at a coffee shop in the airport with the 20 other people--then complete strangers--with whom we would be journeying for the next week.
It was a lively Young Life crowd. Our triplets were the youngest by far. We were joined by three people in their 20s (all traveling with their parents), 4 Young Life staff people from around the country, 3 single women and a handful of couples ranging in age from 40s-70s. Our tour guide, Andre, was there to greet us with the plush tour bus that would become our classroom. Once the luggage was loaded and introductions had been handled, we traveled two hours to Tiberius for our first hotel stay. 24 hours from door to door, but we had made it!
It was dark upon arrival and overcoming jetleg was goal #1. We were urged to stay awake until at least 9pm local time to reset our body clocks. We were given 30 minutes to settle into our rooms, freshen up and return to the hotel dining room for a huge Shabbat (Sabbath) dinner. In Israel, the Sabbath runs from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday--and the observance permeates society. There are Sabbath settings on the elevators that make them stop on every floor so no one will need to do the 'work' of pushing buttons. I noticed in the hotel room our AC thermostat even had a Sabbath setting. The roads are almost abandoned and the stores are closed.
The hotel dining room was bustling as we found our reserved tables--clearly the travel weary Americans among the devout Israeli Jews. As if our appearance didn't make our differences clear, the signs on our tables certainly did!
After a filling dinner and a quick group meeting we went to bed--a bumpy first night of sleeping in fits and starts as our bodies adjusted to the 7 hour time difference...but, oh what a view welcomed us when we awoke Saturday morning.