We arrived in Tel Aviv today after a 9 and a half hour plane ride. The plane was an absolutely packed 747. It was an uneventful flight but very, very long! I was able to sleep some but awfully hard to do in those conditions. So far, I have been able keep track of everyone!
Once we disembarked, we headed to Immigration. For the most part, it went smoothly, but we had one officer who was not pleased with one of the student’s answers to what holy sites he was visiting, and was even less so when he questioned me as the student’s professor. We made it through without being detained, but it was a very nervous few minutes. Once we retrieved our bags, it was through customs to find our tour guide. There he was, waiting for us! His name is Johnny and he has already taught us so much about our trip. Kathryn, my colleague, had arrived from Ethiopia and we were on the bus. Johnny is quite entertaining, calling Tel Aviv and its neighboring port, Jaffa the Mediterranean Twin Cities! Jaffa is, of course, the ancient port town Joppa mentioned several times in the Bible.
We checked in to our hotel, the Grand Beach, which is right on the Mediterranean Sea. Beautiful. We had a delicious dinner of fish, beef, chicken, all kinds of fresh vegetable salads and of course, hummus! After dinner was a brief welcome gathering when all of our group was finally together. We went around and heard from all members what they hoped for in this trip. Wow. It was inspiring to hear of the many different yet coalescing reasons for why make this pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Tomorrow, Bethlehem!