A few interesting people in a few interesting places

I quickly took this picture in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. I’m not sure who this man was or what religious tradition he follows, but I was amused to see him focused on his smart phone, just like I could be in any given moment.

Guarding a door at the Dome of the Rock

A little girl wandering around on the roof of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Her family is close by. She has the same sippy cup as my grandchildren.

Priest saying mass for a small group of worshipers at the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth. I believe he was speaking Spanish.

Great beret, sippers and tote bag.

An older Hasidic man browsing at Mehane Yehuda market.

Israel (Day 1)

The official day 1 of our trip was spent mostly in the plane. Nine hours in the air from Miami to Vienna, then another three plus to Tel Aviv, both on Austrian Airlines. Smooth flights all the way.

I watched and really enjoyed two movies, “Tolkien” and “Aquaman” The onboard meals were meh, but I didn’t expect much. I got about three hours of sleep. Not too bad.

We finally landed safely in Tel Aviv. There were a LOT of people in line for immigration. I’m guessing five hundred or so. But also twelve people checking passports, so we got through, got our bags and got on the bus in about 45 minutes.

Because it was rush hour, we had a two hour drive to our first hotel, the Lake House Kimberly in Tiberius. Our tour guide for the week, Tali, lives in Tiberius, and shared lots of info with us on the way. I think most of our group was dozing. She told us what to expect our first day out when we’ll get to Caesarian, Megiddo, Jezreel, Nazareth and Cana.

After we checked into our hotel room, we enjoyed a great buffet dinner on site. All freshly prepared, all typical regional food. Lots of veggies, olives, cous cous, hummus, wine, and a number of thing we liked, but couldn’t identify. Lots of seasoning, too.

The Sea of Galilee from our hotel balcony.

Israel (Day -1)

My wife and I will join a group of seventeen other travelers to Israel tomorrow. Day zero will be all travel, from Miami to Vienna to Tel Aviv. So today is negative one on the trip time line. (I’m a math guy, so this entertains me.)

I finally packed today. The instructions said to pack light, pack casual, pack comfortable. I did. All of my stuff fits easily into a small rolling duffel. I am using packing cubes for the first time. Boy do they make packing easy! No computer, my books are electronic, my journal is ready, and the car is gassed up.

Tomorrow we drive to Miami where we will meet the rest of our group, most of whom are from our church. I believe we’ve been planning this trip for more than a year. We’re looking forward to eight days packed with all the popular destinations, from the Sea of Galilee to the Dead Sea to Bethlehem and Jerusalem.

One of the things we keep reminding ourselves is that we are traveling to a first-world country. So much of our international travel has been to third world countries, where we can’t drink the water, travel on unpaved roads, and navigate throngs of people trying to sell us stuff, carry our bags, or simply receive a little American wealth. We checked out our hotels. They are nice. The food looks delicious, the water is safe, and we will join so many other travelers who have sought to walk where Jesus walked.

So what are my expectations? I hope to be able to picture the bible stories that happened in each of the places we will visit. I want to see fishermen on the Sea of Galilee, imagine myself at a wedding in Cana, walk through Jerusalem to Golgotha, stand where the temple must have been, and take in a history that goes back nearly 4,000 years.

Since I am a pastor, I expect to be peppered with questions about bible stories, places and people. That’s OK. I like the stories, the places and the people. I talk about that stuff all the time. But now I will be there. I will see it with my own eyes. That has to be an awesome experience, so I’m beginning to look forward to it.

Since I am a pastor, though, I fear that some of the trip will feel like work. I just want to listen to the tour guide, look at the amazing places, and imagine the people without being on the clock. We’ll see how that goes.