The Tour Begins

Sunday-Monday, March 11-12, 2001 Reported by Cleo Tindall

An excited group of 16 people from the Madison, Wisconsin area boarded the Van Galder bus to travel to Chicago, O'Hare Airport.

check-in at O'Hare

 Gordon Govier (Tour Organizer) 
  Janice Bell
  Doreen and Elden Davis
  Wendell Fair
  Harry Fischer
  Marge Hill
  Mary Ann Koester
  David and Marian Jones
  Roger and Jeff Kubly
  Peter and Joan Nysather
  Lloyd and Cleo Tindall

Upon arrival at O'Hare, we went to the ticket counter, and our Tour Director, Joan Meyer Keane, joined us there. Joan had our tickets, and helped us all through the process of getting checked in with Turkish Airlines. Finally we boarded the Turkish Airlines Airbus 340, and after a 30 minute wait, the plane pulled away off the tarmac and lifted into the air at 5:30 PM Central Standard Time. It was a clear day and good views of Chicago could be glimpsed from the windows, including the Sears Tower.

Istandbul airport Turkish Airlines provided us with excellent service during this pleasant 11-hour flight. Most of us did some sleeping during the flight, and we arrived in Istanbul, Turkey at 11:30 AM on March 12. Istanbul airport is about a year old and very nice. Our next flight departed for Tel Aviv at 12:50 PM, arriving at about 2:55 PM. Unfortunately, some of us, Lloyd and myself and Joan and Peter Nysather, chose a slow line to go through customs. Although no one had any problems, it took us over an hour to get through. We finally concluded that if there were 1000 people in line, Lloyd was #999 and Peter was #1000.

We collected our baggage and met Mony Ravid, our guide for the week. I believe that we all agreed we were blessed with a very knowledgeable and interesting guide. Our bus driver was Husam, who was the best bus driver! Some quipped that the bus must have had a hinge in the middle. In addition to his driving miracles, Husam was a very likable and pleasant person.

Mony gave us red caps and maps of Israel to keep us oriented. Because of our long delay at customs, our scheduled tour through the Biblical Landscape Reserve was cancelled. Instead Mony took us to old Jaffa, which is part of the Tel Aviv metropolis.

Jaffa (or Joppa) is located on a natural bay and Jaffa harbor is one of the oldest functioning harbors in the world. The city has been inhabited for about 6000 years, and was mentioned several times in the Bible. When Solomon built the temple he used cedars of Lebanon. These cedar trees came by sea on rafts to the port of Jaffa and were then sent up to Jerusalem (II Chronicles 2:16 and Ezra 3:7). When Jonah was to go to Nineveh, he ran off instead to Jaffa where he caught a ship to Tarshish (Jonah 1:3). Near the port there is a sculpture of a whale to commemorate Jonah and his adventure. Peter was also staying with Simon the Tanner whose house was by the sea in Jaffa. Peter had a vision that a sheet from heaven came down and he was told to eat of the animals (Acts 10:1-33 and Acts 11:5-13). Mony told us that unclean animals meant they were not kosher.

Jaffa harbor Mony told us that 40 years ago, no decent person would come to this area. The buildings were all ruins, it was a red light district, and drugs were readily available. Now the district has been restored, and there are many good restaurants and shops with a thriving artists' community. A church dedicated to St. Peter and visited by Napoleon dates back to the 18th century.

Back on the bus and through Tel Aviv to the Carmel Hotel in Netanya located directly on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea. We visited our rooms to freshen up and then to the dining room where a beautiful buffet had been prepared for us. Lloyd and I took a walk around the hotel area, and Doreen, Roger, and Jeff did some climbing on the banks along the shore. What a wonderful introduction we had as Pilgrims to the Land of Israel.