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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 🙂