This is our final blog entry, covering a thirty six hour period from breakfast one day to arriving home the next. It is with slightly mixed emotions. In one way it is hard to believe we left two weeks ago. On the other, it is good to be home. As we came through Philadelphia, we were reminded that our journey began with part of our group traveling 60 hours with no sleep at the beginning. That seems so long ago.
Our journey home began with a free morning. Some of us walked through the Old City this Shabbat morning through the Damascus Gate and working our way to the Western Wall. It was an amazing scene. People everywhere. The men went into the synagogue beside the wall area. It was like the United Nations of Jewish men, young and old, reading, praying, studying. It was a good learning experience.
Nir and Shlomi arrived around 1:15 and we headed for the area near the Knesset. Our goal was a very significant bronze monument in the form of a menorah located across from the Knesset. It contains 30 events, idioms or characteristics of Israel throughout its history. We got our final group photo there. We then went to the Garden Tomb. While the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is historically the probable site of the crucifixion and burial of Jesus, the feel and sense of it all is found at the Garden Tomb. Kieran, an Irish host guide at the Garden Tomb, gave us its story, including why some believe this is the correct place. We then went into the tomb a few at a time. Only one of the burial spots has been finished, just as the Scriptures describe. But the joyous thing is the sign on the door as you leave: 'He is not here. He is risen." We ended our time there by taking communion together. While in our communion area we could hear the singing of an African group and the sounds from another international group. It gave us a taste of Heaven on earth.
Next stop: the Elah valley, site of the battle between David and Goliath. A new excavation is going on at the top of one of the hills surrounding the valley. This was once the boundary line between Israel and the Philistines. Of course some of us tried to pick up five smooth stones to take along.
Our final meal was on the Mediterranean Sea after we did a short tour of ancient Jaffa. Also known as Joppa, this is where Jonah entered a ship headed the opposite way from his assigned ministry area and Peter saw the vision of the sheet from Heaven. It took almost all of three hours to go through security and customs before we boarded our flight to the US. Because of a 90 mph headwind, it took us 13 hours to fly home. After loving goodbyes, we parted ways for our final leg home.
Pam and I were very blessed to share this journey with a remarkable group of people who touched us deeply. We truly became a family during the trip and for that we are grateful. Shalom.