Israel Day 10: Tel Aviv to DC

Onboard United flight 85 from Tel Aviv to Newark

After a brisk week of touring in Israel we are on the way home. Because Israel is a relatively small country the time on the bus was minimal and each day was jam-packed with visits to numerous religious and archeological sites. We were never on the bus for more than twos hours at a time. Compare that to previous international tours with transfer days that required all-day bus trips to get from country to country or city to city. Maybe I’m getting older, or maybe I’m a little out of travel shape after a couple of years at home, but the fast-paced nature of this trip was very tiring. I’ll need a few days to rest and catch-up on sleep. But, as a recent retiree, no need to go to work tomorrow!

In the initial post for this trip I mentioned that we’ve been working getting to Israel for a number of years. I’m glad we finally made this happen and Israel was the perfect COVID travel destination. (I don’t think we can say post-COVID yet.) Up until a couple of months ago traveling to Israel was in question. Only after the Omicron wave began to recede to did we get the go ahead to proceed. Because tourism is just restarting in Israel, many locations we visited had small crowds or almost no other tourists. And the vaccination and testing requirements helped make traveling now safe for our group.

Arrival antigen testing

Now that I have been there, here is what I can report. Israel is a beautiful country. We saw old cities, modern cities, lush forests, mountainous deserts, and vast irrigated farmlands. The Israeli people … Arabs, Christians, and Jews … were always welcoming, friendly, and helpful. The food was incredible! Shawarma, schnitzel, falafel, hummus, mezze, and more. I could definitely shift to a Mediterranean diet.

Dome of the Rock
Outside Jerusalem
The Negev Desert
Farmland on the way to Tel Aviv

But without a doubt the religious significance and political questions are at the forefront of any visit to the country. No deep or meaningful analysis from me on religion or politics, but I will say this … For many people a trip to Israel is a religious pilgrimage. Israel is important for Christians, Jews, and Muslims. To be able to visit the same places that are described in the Bible, and to walk the same ground, is pretty incredible … And since 1948 many have questioned the establishment of a Jewish state of Israel, and the resulting impact on the Palestinian people. For me this trip didn’t provide any greater clarity on the matter, although it did help shed new light on the many different perspectives. I can say that I’m confident a solution to the political questions are likely generations away.

A big part of these trips is the tour bus. You spend a lot of time on the bus and, it’s literally your window to the country you are visiting. And so our driver, Naseef, cleaned the bus windows at night so we would always have a good view (it’s very dusty here), made sure the bus AC was running when we got to the bus, kept the cooler filled with plenty of water, and always had the bus in the right spot at the right time. In the heat of the day, that’s really important and Naseef was always there with the bus.

Naseef’s bus in the Negev Desert

Army Captain, attorney, and tour guide, Rotem is passionate about sharing his country with visitors. He also hustles! Constantly working out tour logistics with Naseef, our hotels, restaurants, and destinations. The result was seamless travel experience for our group. We never waited in a line. Everything was always prepared. Because this was Israel, Rotem incorporated a number of Bible readings into the tour so that we would visit a location and read a passage from the Bible associated with that place. Literally the Bible come to life. If you need a tour guide in Israel, look up Rotem.

Rotem in his element

I’ve written before about the great group of travelers that come on these trips, but I haven’t written about how the members of the group ended up traveling with Dr. Craven. As a educator, Brad has been organizing international trips for his students since 1984 … 2 to 4 trips per year! Brad’s wife Nancy has been on the trips almost since the beginning. Nancy’s mom started going on the trips and invited her friend, Ron’s mom. Ron started going and has now been on 47 trips! Marguerite teaches Latin at the school where Brad was the principal. Marguerite has been on almost as many trips as Ron. Marguerite invited Carol and Carol has been on a number of trips. Mickey was invited by a friend whose daughter was a student at Brad’s school. Mickey invited her friend Donna to go on a trip to Egypt. And a couple of years later Mickey invited her sister Shannon, Shannon’s boyfriend Peter, and me to come on the trip to China in 2009. (I knew Donna from the 1997 to Alaska with Mickey, Patty, and Sue and Shannon through Wendy … but that’s a whole separate blog post!) Mickey, Donna, and I have been doing a trip every year or so since the China trip. This was my 9th trip. Of note since our last trip in 2019 … Brad has retired, Peter has retired, Carol has retired, Donna has retired, and now I have retired.

Brad, Nancy, Ron, Marguerite, Michael, Donna, Peter, Mickey, Shannon, Carol, and Rotem at Mount of Olive overlooking Jerusalem

For those of you who have followed along, thanks for taking the time to read, check out the pictures, and comment! And a special thank you to Mickey, Donna, and Shannon for the daily proofreading and wording debates!! Now time to head home and work on those overdue trip videos that Brad harassed me about all week 🙂

23 Comments on “Israel Day 10: Tel Aviv to DC

  1. So glad you were finally able to make this trip. It all sounds and looks amazing! Hope you have a safe trip home.

    • Thanks for following and reading along, Donna!! After many delays great to be able to finally visit. Looking forward to comparing notes.

  2. Thanks for the wrap-up Michael. I feel I spend a great week in Israel without leaving my living room chair …. and Google Maps.

    God bless!

    • Thanks for reading and commenting, Mike!! It’s like you were on the trip with us!

    • Mike – Thanks for reading, following along, and your comments and observations. Now that I’m home I need to do the same research you’ve been doing!

  3. Thank you so much Michael for taking the time to document our trip each day! It’s such a fun group to travel with and so grateful to have finally had this awesome opportunity to visit Israel. I’m already looking forward to our next adventure!

    • Thanks, Shannon!! I’m glad that every couple of years we can to spend time together exploring some other part of the world. Time to plan the next trip!

  4. Thanks for all the updates and details of your journey! It was very educational and enjoyable as always. Safe travels home and happy retirement…. Until the next big adventure!

  5. I love your photos, Michael, and the narrative is just perfect. It’s so illustrative – I feel like I’m there! It’s clear you have a ‘journalist’s inclination, as your prose is neutral, unbiased – just the facts, ma’am, just the facts 🙂 Congratulations on a great journey – thanks for taking us along. I’ve got some catching up to do on this trip (I’ve only completed two of your posts.) Welcome home!

    • Thanks for reading and your comments, Diane!! The neutral approach is intentional and I am not surprised that you noticed!

  6. Excelente narrativa del viaje. Sin duda otros recuerdos y vivencias a acumular. Un excelente equipo de viajes

    • ¡Gracias por leer, Angie! Tanto que ver y hacer en Israel. ¡Espero que puedas unirte al grupo de viaje para otro viaje pronto!

  7. Michael, a brilliant recap of our adventure with our amazing travel friend group.

  8. O.M.G. You have proofreaders for your blog?! You are blessed!

    • Trying to do this on a phone is hard. And I can’t proofread my own writing, so I’m grateful that Mickey, Donna, and Shannon offer to help with proofing and fact-checking!

  9. Thank you for this nice last note. I’m looking forward to the video and to hopefully meeting up with you in person to discuss your trip. I find myself interested in the Bible historically, but not in faith. This trip seemed much more Christian-centered than I would have expected, but maybe its because it’s harder to understand the emotional impact of many of the other sites from photos and words alone. Thank you for bring us along!

    • Thanks for reading, Mitsi! Many of the locations we visited are archaeological tells – a site where people have lived for thousands of years evidenced by layers and layers of civilization. In many cases what is now a church was built on top of an earlier temple or mosque. There are different ways to do this trip with a focus on one – or more – religions. It may not come through in the pictures, but our guide did a great job of highlighting the religious history of Israel.

  10. Thanks Michael for documenting this trip as I had some time to read through it. Great job!

    Looking forward to many trips to come with you and others. Israel was a great experience!

  11. Your welcome Michael! Great travelling with you as well. I always have some funny story to add to my travels 🙂

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