Free travel reports from the Middle East

Sleeping in Eilat

Wednesday morning (March 6) Jake, Hilary, Lydia, and I walked to the Jerusalem central bus station and each purchased a ticket for bus #444 direct to Eilat. We departed promptly at 10 a.m., and with the help of our daredevil bus driver, we were looking out at the Red Sea at 2 o’clock that afternoon, an hour earlier than projected. I had pulled up a walking route on google maps on the bus, using the complimentary wifi provided on the Egged public transport bus. Unfortunately, the map disappeared the minute we walked off the bus and away from the wifi, so we walked out of the bus station without a map. Luckily Jake, who had been planning on finding his own transportation to Eilat, was with us and had his own hand drawn map of the route from the bus station. We followed it as best as we could until we felt sufficiently lost and hailed a cab. We landed at a gated corner house that matched the address we found on the website. Success! But when we rang the bell, no one answered. We realized that our hosts were probably not expecting us for another hour, so we camped out on the steps in front of the gate and read for an hour, maybe an hour and a half. At 4:00 we decided we should try something else. Jake and I found a neighbor and asked to use his cell phone to call our host, but as we were dialing, the neighbor-man told us that the number we had was not an Israeli number. In fact it was not a cell phone number at all. “Who are you trying to call?” he asked.  “Violette? Yes, she lives here, but she is at work, and her husband works at the U.N. She will be home later tonight.” Three phone calls and several trips to a nearby falafel stand later we were in our apartment. We spent the next week sleeping in, reading, lounging on the beach, snorkeling at Coral Beach, and visiting a tourist trap called the Ice Mall where we saw some amateur figure skating. All in all a good week, but we were happy to arrive at Ecce Homo on Sunday night, where we knew our meals would no longer consist of hot dogs, tomato paste, and canned peas.

– Becca Longenecker

Our group made the crazy decision to travel 20 hours each way to visit EMU grad Michael Swartzendruber in Egypt for independent travel. Amanda, Daniel, Bodner, Andrew, Laura, Lauren, Brandon, Heather, and I set off from the bus station in Jerusalem around 7 p.m. Saturday evening (March 2), crossed the border around 2 a.m., and made it (after a long, long, bus ride) to Cario around 3 p.m. on Sunday. We visited

the pyramids at Giza, the Sphynx, the Egypt museum of Cairo, the (modern) library of Alexandria, and stayed at Anafora, a Christian retreat center. We had a great mix of excitement and relaxation: discomfort crammed in a hot, stinky van for way too long, followed by super-comfort, relaxing and reading in a desert oasis. We were on the edge of our seats as we rode through the Bedouin Sinai accompanied by a convoy of soldiers, then again at the edge of our seats as we waited for our food at a delicious restaurant on the coast of Alexandria. I think that every one of us in the Egypt group grew in our ability for trust, flexibility, and wonder at the uniqueness of the world we live in. Linford likes to talk to us about the risk-taking life of Jesus, pushing the boundaries in order to show the immensity of God’s love. What greater way to appreciate God’s creativity and goodness than to step outside our comfort zones and experience a brand new culture?

-Heidi Long

What a very different week! Adventurous, scary and exciting are some of the words people used to describe this week. My group consisted of Rachel, Elise, Erin, Victoria, Megan and myself. We traveled to the city of Haifa right on the Mediterranean Sea for a week of relaxation. Some of the amazing activities that filled this week were creating a homemade projector to watch movies off our iPods (it definitely worked), eating lots of food, (some good, some different) lots of sleeping, laying on the beach, eating at a restaurant where they spoke little English, basically just Hebrew, and just enjoying God’s wonderful world. This was such an amazing and thrilling week where we got to relax, but also get to know each other a little better. Even though it was sad to end this great week, I think we will all be excited to finish up the last part of our semester abroad. May God bless us with a good finish and with peace along the way. Peace be with you all!

-Liz Alderfer

Jake B-S, Mark, Jacob and I spent two days sailing the Mediterranean Sea. We sailed up the Israeli coast from Askqelon to Jaffa the first day. The sea was pretty rough so we all had less than enjoyable experiences. The second day was much better, though. We sailed back to Ashqelon and enjoyed the time talking and reading. The water was much more smooth the second day. After sailing, Jacob, Mark, and I travelled to Haifa for four days. While there we visited the Baha’i Gardens and had a relaxing day on the beach. We also walked around the city a little and enjoyed exploring this coastal city. We did have to survive on hot dogs and instant noodles but we managed.

-David Hooley


Free travel with Nate Bailey, Joseph Arbaugh, and Isaac King was nothing less than adventurous! We all braved the salty Mediterranean Sea for a two day sailing trip. The waters were very calm and our trip was equally calm and relaxing. Most of the time was spent talking to our dynamic skipper, Reuben, who told us stories ranging from his service with the Israeli Navy to life on a kibbutz. We were even lucky enough to see breeching dolphins from our boat on the first day! This is definitely an experience to remember.

-Jordan Luther



We all met back together Sunday night (March 10) from our travels at Ecce Homo. Ecce Homo is a convent for the Sisters of Zion in the Muslim quarter of the Old City in Jerusalem. We spent the next day telling tales of our week travelling about (entertaining to say the least) and being introduced into the topic of Judaism, our study for the next week. While on this subject we took about 10 hours of Hebrew (we can now sing the alphabet and pick out Hebrew letters), learned about the ancient and modern religion of Judaism, and followed Jesus through Jerusalem. It was to our surprise when one night Linford led us to a room down under Ecce Homo where there is an old Roman street. This is the street thought to be where Jesus was interrogated by Pilate. We spent the evening in quiet reflection on what Jesus did for us and ended it with some singing and scripture. Then on Friday, we followed the path Jesus took the week of his trial. From the Upper Room where the Last Supper took place to the Garden of Gethsemane, the place Peter denied Jesus, walking the Via Dolorosa (the traditional path where Jesus carried his cross to Golgatha) and ending at the Garden Tomb. It was a unique and humbling experience for us and with Easter approaching I believe we all became a bit more aware of what our Jesus did for us.  This week was also entertaining in that we lived in the Old City with the Dome of the Rock and the Western Wall a couple of streets away. Most of us became experts at finding our way in and out of the crowds of people in order to explore and barter for gifts with the shopkeepers. It’s amazing how good you feel about yourself when you manage to save a few shekels. As much fun as we had at Ecce Homo we moved on to a kibbutz in the Galilee this past Sunday. We have spent this past week studying through Oranim College about the modern Israeli history. This has included talks with soldiers in the Israeli army, students from Oranim College, lectures and museums about the Holocaust and even being on the radio. These past two weeks have sped by quite quickly and we are once again packing up and moving on to Nazareth tomorrow afternoon. While we enjoyed our time in Jerusalem and on the kibbutz we are looking forward to the next leg of our journey: conquering the Jesus trail.

-Hilary Short