Ness to Tel Aviv
Photo Credit above ‘ Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives’ by Wayne Mclean licensed under Wikimedia Creative Commons
At a recent Youth Alpha meeting in the church, and during separate conversations at other times, some discussion took place about visiting the Holy land in the future, and possibly going as part of a group from the congregation. To whet the appetite a bit I am going to post some notes I made in my own journal of a trip that I made with some others to Israel over twelve years ago. These notes were written usually on our bus, and so are a bit rough, I have edited the notes and added explanation where I felt this was necessary. In these notes it will become apparent that I do not share much in common with some in the Church of Scotland hierarchy as regards my opinion of the nation of Israel and the Holy Land.
1ST ENTRY GLASGOW – TEL AVIV
29th May 2004 Glasgow airport 8.30PM
I write this during a familiar delay in flights. The flight to Heathrow was due to take off at 7.35PM but has now been delayed until 9PM. I take this opportunity to write an introduction to what I hope will be an interesting and readable account of a brief visit to the holy land.
The ‘ genesis’ of this all began in the desire of two sisters from Ness, Peggy and Calumina Graham of Swainbost to visit the holy land. Calumina has spent much of her working life in Israel and speaks modern Hebrew very well. I was encouraged by Alison, Mary my mother-in-law, and others to go, and I finally agreed. So now I find myself going to Heathrow, London en-route to Tel Aviv Israel, via Zurich (Switzerland).
I hope that this short journal will accurately describe my thoughts, feelings and emotions of what I see, feel and think in the land of the Bible. We are going as part of an organised tour with Glynn Morgan of Life time Christian Holidays of South Wales, staying in the Israeli coastal resort of Netanya. Glynn Morgan is well known in the holy land and has been honoured by the Israeli government for leading up to sixty trips to Israel and the holy land. He is a baptist pastor in Wales and brings an unashamedly evangelical outlook to his understanding of the Bible narrative as it relates to the tours he conducts.
Today is a Bank Holiday in Scotland, and Glasgow airport had 150,000 passengers pass through. By this time though it is very quiet. I had said my goodbyes to Alison and Catherine at the airport in Stornoway earlier, but we had said our proper goodbyes before this at home. I am looking forward to this break as I have been inundated with an enormous amount of work of late.
Saturday 29th May 11.05 PM
Writing this at terminal 2 Heathrow airport. We arrived 15 minutes ahead of schedule at Terminal 1, and after baggage check, went to find terminal 2. We took what we thought to be a route to an underground (tube) station, and found ourselves walking in subterranean tunnels to Terminal 2. We arrive tired, DJ ( Donald John Smith Shader Barvas) and Peggy having to walk a fair distance, and it is hard going for them. (But this is a taste of things to come). We have five hours to kill, and not much to do; even Heathrow is quiet at this time on a Saturday night. The plane down was a Boeing 757 a large plane and got us there quickly with spectacular views of London. The view of the capital as we flew overhead was stunning, with the city looking like a massive sprawling neon ants nest, a living breathing luminous monster stretching as far as the eye can see in all directions, the roads as busy at 10PM at night as other cities are during the day.
Glasgow itself looked impressive as we flew into it before 7PM. But London lit up and pulsing with life on a Saturday night was something else. Not that there is much life here right now. The first leg of the journey is now over, and the next stage will see us fly to the continent of Europe. Even at 11PM London is close and muggy.
What will be my first reflections of the holy land? Well we will wait and see. The Sabbath is over now, the Christian Sabbath in Lewis yet to begin. It will be very different in Israel that is for sure. My first impression will very likely be sheer exhaustion.
Sunday 30th May 2004 21.35 Local time (Central European Time) 19.35 (British Summer Time)
As the churches in Lewis finish evening worship in bright sunshine it is pitch dark here in Israel. The day was long and tiring. After my last note at Heathrow terminal 2, we tried to sleep fitfully on very uncomfortable seats. At 4AM we assembled at the Swissair desk with Glynn Morgan and the rest of the crew. We stood for a whole hour in the queue before anything happened. At 5AM we boarded the flight to Zurich. In Zurich at 9AM and changed flights to Tel Aviv. Both planes very full, the plane to Tel Aviv especially full of orthodox Jews en route to Israel, complete with black clothes, ringlets, shaved parts of scalp, phylacteries, etc Great care was taken by the Swissair crew to serve the Jewish passengers their Kosher meals first. I thought it a bit odd I have to say, but not as odd as the in-flight movie which was ‘the Calendar Girls’! I ended up sat beside an opinionated young businessman from Tel Aviv who assured me that Britain’s economic growth was unsustainable in the long term. He was right!
Reached Tel Aviv Ben Gurion airport at 3PM local time ( 1 PM BST) , glad to arrive as the flight took three and a half hours, although the food was very good and the plane very comfortable. The heat on the tarmac at Ben Gurion was indescribable. We had been warned by the pilot that it was ” a hot 38C”. he wasn’t joking! To make matters worse there was a strong wind blowing, like the Sirocco bringing heat from Africa. It was like standing in front of the open door of a fan assisted oven. It was a relief to get into buses, buildings etc to get out of the heat. The strange thing was, it was a cloudy day and there was no direct glare from the Sun. We reached Netanya and got to our rooms . Going to bed now, been on the go for over 24 hours since we left Stornoway, can’t write anymore – utterly exhausted.