By Dorothy Jean Weaver
This is just a brief and final note to let you know that we have now arrived home, safely and with deep gratitude, from our Middle East sojourn in Israel/Palestine.
Last Friday morning, May 27, we enjoyed a final retreat and a closing Communion Service together at our lodgings on the Mount of Beatitudes, overlooking the Sea of Galilee. It was a special gift to have time alone for personal reflection and journaling and then to regather for a time of shared reflections around the circle. And it was likewise a special gift to share the bread and cup with each other in our final worship service together. Following our morning of “retreat,” we had a wonderful lunch of St. Peter’s Fish (aka tilapia) in the dining room of our guest house, in place of the sandwiches which had been “Plan A” for that meal. I noted to the group that Jesus had turned water into wine, while Tony, our inimitable tour guide, through his interventions with the travel agency on our behalf, had turned sandwiches into St. Peter’s Fish! (He liked that little joke.)
From the Mount of Beatitudes we headed south and west to Caesarea Maritima, the amazing sea harbor built by Herod the Great and the site where Paul was held in custody for several years and from which he set off by ship for Rome. Here we paid a short visit to the aquaduct (and the beach!), then visited the archaeological site. And from Caesarea we headed on south to Netanya on the coast and the Blue Bay, a hotel situated directly on the shore of the Mediterranean. It was a striking setting for our last few hours in the Holy Land. And the sound of the waves was delightful background music throughout our short stay. But our time was very brief. At 12:00 midnight we rolled out of bed, ever-so-unwillingly, to drag our bags down to the reception, drink early-morning beverages, and wait for our bus driver to show up and open the bus for our trip to Tel Aviv and Ben Gurion International Airport.
We were on the road by 1:00 AM and at the airport prior to 2:00 AM, in advance of our 5:30 AM flight to Frankfurt and our onward flight to Washington Dulles. It took several hours before we had all cleared security and checked in for our flight. And then it was all over except for the long, long, long flight home and the 31-hour day (24 + 7) which replaced for us the seven hours that we had lost on the trip east some 3 1/2 weeks earlier.
And now we are home, in body and in spirit. But our trip will continue to live with us in coming days and weeks and on into the future, as we reflect on all that we have encountered and experienced. Our worlds will never be quite the same again. And that is the gift–and the ongoing challenge–of travel and encounter with new worlds and new people.
Thanks to all of you for your participation in our journey as you have read our daily blogs and prayed for us along the way! We are deeply grateful for your gifts of interest and support as we have traveled. And if any of you have been intrigued by our travel experiences and would love to join such a travel group in future (2013), please feel free to be in touch. We would love to hear from you.