Note from Sue: Last week my husband, Ron, and I returned home after spending two weeks in Israel. I’d dreamed of this trip for many years. Ron was a bit reluctant to go at first, but today, we both agree, the time, money and energy invested was beyond ‘well worth it.’ In the next few Listening on the Journey… blog posts, I’ll recall the impact of some key Israel moments as well as a few of Ron’s photos help capturing the moments. Posts will be my own personal thoughts, rather than biblical, historical or political commentary, and they won’t necessarily be presented in chronological order. I hope you’ll enjoy.
September 22nd was Ron’s birthday. We began his special day with an early breakfast at a favorite little gourmet hole-in-the-wall Coeur d’Alene restaurant that’s almost impossible to get into during the weekend, but was nearly empty that morning.
After breakfast, we headed to Spokane International Airport to begin an excursion of a lifetime. This was more than a vacation. We believed we were embarking on a spiritual pilgrimage to Israel, the land in which our Judeo-Christian belief system was birthed.
We were right! More than two weeks later, Ron’s sifting through over 5000 photos he took. I’m revisiting journal notes, which documented facts and feelings. Both of us realize, for a long time we’ll be sorting through life-changing, brain-challenging moments from our Holy Land visit.
At this stage of my life journey, I avoid pre-conceived notions and expectations. I’ve found more often than not they don’t materialize in ways I envision. Instead, I like to say, “Surprise me, God!” That simple invitation has become my favorite prayer. I cherish God’s “surprises,” which always exceed anything I might imagine.
International flights are exhausting! In order to endure the rigmarole, I realize I must be passionate about reaching my destination, and passion wasn’t a problem. The mere thought of traveling to Israel has caused my heart to beat extra fast since I was a teenager. This trip was number one on my “bucket list,” even before I was introduced to the concept of “bucket lists.”
Nevertheless, by the time we’d flown from Spokane to Minneapolis and Minneapolis to Paris, I was, as my grandma used to say, “plumb-tuckered-out!” The final leg of travel from Paris to Tel Aviv, took place on a cramped, crowded plane. Ron sat in the aisle seat. I was in the middle.
I’d exchanged a brief pleasantry with the young woman occupying the window seat, but after I’d elbowed her full glass of tomato juice, spilling the sticky red substance onto her shoes, my pants, sweater and new book, the tempo of our conversation increased. I admired her gentle graciousness concerning the accident. Chatting with the woman—probably younger than our daughters—helped the remainder of the journey pass more quickly.
Ron sought her advice on procuring a taxi from the airport to our hotel. Her obvious tech-savvy counsel seemed a bit confusing, but when she told us her boyfriend was picking her up, and they’d be happy to give us a ride to the hotel, we agreed gladly. We learned their names—Lena and Eli. We enjoyed the ride and commentary from airport to hotel, a lovely edifice located directly across the street from the magnificent Mediterranean Sea. They refused our offer of money, but accepted Ron’s invitation to take them to lunch the next day. We exchanged contact information, wondering if this obviously bright, in-love young couple would actually want to hang out with ‘old folks’ like us.
Our Israel journey had begun, and the first night in Tel Aviv launched two weeks of overwhelmed senses.
The evening began with a delicious Shabbat dinner at the hotel, followed by a leisurely walk along the Mediterranean. The beach bustled with activity as dozens of Muslim families, congregated in comradery—mostly in gender-specific groups of men and women—barbequed delicious-smelling kabobs. Children ran, played and laughed with the abandon only children possess.
The lovely hotel where we stayed in Tel Aviv
Eli called Ron Saturday morning, agreeing to meet us at the hotel, and at 11:30 we began a walking excursion with the young couple. Several hours—and many steps later (over 24,000 that day)—we’d learned to love this gracious young couple as well as Israel’s largest city, Tel Aviv.
“Tel” is a Hebrew word meaning “old.” “Aviv” in Hebrew depicts the “newness of springtime.”
This is Israel—the old and the new.
Eli pointed out Independence Hall, where the Israeli Declaration of Independence was signed in 1948.
The nation of Israel is very young.
The land of Israel, however, is ancient.
During upcoming days we would experience both the geo political challenges of the young nation as well as the rich history and biblical significance of an ancient land—a land God described to a chosen group of people as one “flowing with milk and honey.”
We owe a debt of gratitude to our young Israeli friends. Our brief but meaningful relationship began when I clumsily knocked over a glass of tomato juice. During the next few hours, we forged a friendship. We may never see this couple again, but forever we’ll value our “Surprise-me-God!” meeting. They, along with this land of “new” and “old,” will often be the topic of prayers in which we’ll always ask God to bless and protect both Israel and its inhabitants.
Shalom, Eli and Lena!
Shalom, Israel! (Kite surfing as the sun sets over the Mediterranean.)
Blessings of Shalom on your journeys…
- Most know that the Hebrew word shalom is understood around the world to mean “peace.” … Hebrew words go beyond their spoken pronunciation. Each Hebrew word conveys feeling, intent and emotion. Shalom is more than just simply peace; it is a complete peace. It is a feeling of contentment, wholeness, well-being and harmony. (http://www.therefinersfire.org)
Note: For more information about your own trip to Israel, we recommend highly Dan and Sharon Stolbarger, our group leaders. If this is a trip you’d love to make, check them out at http://holygroundexplorations.com/ ↑