Sunday, November 11, 2012
The Old City of Jerusalem
Jerusalem is a bustling, prosperous looking city, with construction projects going on everywhere. Our hotel, the Olive Tree, is located in the new city, but within walking distance of the old, walled city of Jerusalem, dating back to centuries before the time of Christ. It was within the walls of the old city that Solomon built his first temple, which goes back to the tenth century BCE.
Although it was within walking distance, it was a long walk, so we took a bus this morning to a parking lot near one of the eight gates of the old city. As we approached the gate, we passed under half of Hadrian's arch, the other half of which is inside the old city.
St. Anne's church
Our first stop within the walls was at St. Anne's Church. This very old church was erected on the ruins of a much older Byzantine church in the 12th century, and is believed to stand over the cave where Anne, the mother of Mary, was born.
The church was restored and a very beautiful garden planted around it by the White Fathers, a catholic missionary organization based in Africa. There is a statue of their founder in the park.
Adjacent to St. Anne's Church are the excavated healing baths of Bethesda, where Jesus was asked by the invalid to cure him, as he had waited years for someone to come and help him into the healing baths, and no one would. Jesus told him to take up his bed and walk, and he did so.
Like much of modern Jerusalem, the city that we see is built on top of some 15 or 20 feet of ruins and rubble, accumulated from years of tearing down old buildings and building new ones on top of them. Most of what we are seeing is put there to commemorate the site of something which is now well beneath the surface.
The Israelis are being very diligent about uncovering and restoring the archeological sites, which must be quite a job for them, as the whole of Israel seems like one big archeological site to me.
The Via Doloroso
We entered the old city adjacent to the Via Doloroso, which is said to be the route Jesus followed from the place of his trial to the hill where he was crucified. Again, much of what we were looking at was the more modern construction which was built on top of the original roads and buildings, mostly destroyed by the Romans or other invaders.
The various stations of the cross, as referenced in the Catholic rituals, are marked along the way. The third and fifth stations are marked by arches, depicted here. There are street vendors all along the way now, as the city's main source of revenue for the inhabitants is tourism.
The Church of the Holy Sepulcher
The most visited place in Jerusalem is the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, where a huge church has been erected over what is believed by most people to be the tomb in which Jesus' body was placed after the crucifixion. There is some historical question about this, and at least one other spot is a good candidate, and the one Dottie prefers. However, we will visit this later in the day.
For now, we joined the big crowd of people entering the church. The crowd is really a line waiting to get in, as the church was pretty well filled up inside. This was at least partly due to the fact that the Armenian church was holding a sort of moving mass inside the church, where hundreds of them, dressed in church regalia, marched around the tomb singing and chanting.
Our guide, Peshara, explained to us that the old walled city is divided into four quarters; the Jewish quarter, the Moslem Quarter, the Christian Quarter and the Armenian Quarter. For the first three, the people who live within the walled city are pretty well mixed, and there is no real requirement that the Arabs live in the Arab Quarter, so the populations are mixed in each of the districts. That is, each of them except for the Armenians. They have their own church, much as the Greek Orthodox have theirs, but they are a very closed community, and only Armenians may live in the Armenian Quarter.
I do not know the significance of the ceremony they were conducting, and Peshara didn't know either.
Golgotha, or Calvary
Also within the Church of the Holy Sepulcher is an excavation down to the hill, or rocky point, on which the crucifix is believed to have stood. "Golgotha", and "Calvary", are both words for "Skull", as the rock was believed to have some similarity in appearance to a human skull.
Part of the reason for doubting the authenticity of this tomb and of this rock is that the Via Dolorosa wends through the walled city, and out the far side, where the crucifixion took place. the church and the enclosed tomb and the rock are all inside the present city walls. Defenders of the authenticity of the site say that the walls were moved, and that the site of the church was, at the time of the crucifixion, outside the walls.
Tim has a further reason for doubting that the church is in the right place. He says the Romans conducted the crucifixions in the most public way possible, as the chief purpose was to keep the Jews in mortal fear of incurring the wrath of their Roman conquerors. So, they did them next to busy roads where many people would pass by and witness the horror that befell their enemies. There was no well traveled road at this location in the past. Only a less-used lane.
The wailing wall
The Romans destroyed Jerusalem pretty much completely in the first century, after the Jews revolted in the year 66 CE. About the only thing left visible above the present ground level is a section of the west wall of the city, which is known as the wailing wall.
The wailing wall is important to both Christians and Jews. The Jews, in particular, feel that it has great religious significance, and there is the belief that a prayer, written on a scrap of paper and placed in a crack in the wall, will be answered.
The Churches of the Ascension
We visited two more churches built on probably historic sites. The first was The church of the Ascension of Mary, from which location she was supposed to have been assumed into heaven. It is a pretty church, and has some impressive art work inside.
The second is the Church of the Ascension of Moses, although I am not quite sure why it is located here in Jerusalem as Moses, after leading the children of Israel out of slavery in Egypt is supposed to have reached Mount Nebo, on the other side of the Jordan River, seen the Promised Land on the other side, and died there on Mount Nebo.
It turned out to be a very full day, anyway, and we were happy to return to the hotel for dinner and a quiet evening. Peshara said the walled city was within walking distance of the hotel, if any of us wanted to go back and explore on our own, but I don't think anyone took him up on this.
Monday, November 12
Today was the third day of our three night stay at the Olive Garden Hotel in Jerusalem. We started the day off by some more touring of historic sites around the old city.
The home of Caiaphas
Caiaphas was the high priest of the Jews, who had a very nice house outside the walls of the old city of Jerusalem, on a hill where he had a good view of the city, and refreshing breezes to blow away the unpleasant odors of the city. After the Romans soldiers took Jesus into custody in the garden of Gethsemane at the foot of the Mount of Olives, he was taken for the night to the home of Caiaphas, who happened to have a convenient dungeon where he could be kept until morning.
Unlike most of the historic sites in Jerusalem, which are buried under many feet of rubble and earth, much of Caiaphas' house is still above ground, because it was on the mountainside outside the walls. Of course, much of it has been reconstructed, but the basic structure remains, as does the cistern-like dungeon.
There is a church located at the site now, as seems to be the case with every historical location in Israel.
The Upper Room
Jesus spent his last night before being taken prisoner by the Romans with his followers in "the upper room" which partially served as a place of concealment. There they had the last supper. This historical place doesn't seem to be in as much contention as some of the other biblical locations.
The upper room has been partly reconstructed, but much of it, like the house of Caiaphas, remains as it was because it is high on the hillside, and outside the city which was destroyed repeatedly.
The alternative location for the garden of Gethsemane, the crucifixion, and the interment is a bit farther outside the present walls of the old city of Jerusalem than is the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. It is a very pretty place. Our Arab guide, Peshara, was not allowed to take us into the garden, but instead they had their own tour guide who did an excellent job of telling us the pros and cons relative to this being the actual site of the garden of Gethsemane and the crucifixion. Dottie was there fifteen years ago, and she was convinced then.
In the time of Jesus, "garden" did not ordinarily mean a place where decorative flowers were grown, but rather a place where local crops were planted. In this case, it appears the local crop was olives, for, appropriately enough, it is at the foot of the Mount of Olives, and there is, in fact, the remains of an ancient stone olive press in the garden. Beside it, there is a stone tomb in the mountainside, which is likely to have belonged to a well to do local man. It has a circular door, and there is a grove across the front, suitable as a track for rolling a very large circular stone to close off the opening.
Adjacent to the garden, and alongside a very heavily traveled (in those days) road is a steep mountainside, or hillside cliff which we could see through an iron grating. Just to the right of the vertical post is the configuration that people think looks like a skull, and would result in the place being called Golgotha. Just to the right of this hill is now a busy bus terminal, on a road that was, two thousand years ago, also a busy road.
Tuesday, November 13
Crusader Fort in Abu Gosh
We started our bus trip today with a stop at a crusader fort at the city of Abu Gosh. not far from Jerusalem.
Abu Ghosh is one of the earliest areas of human habitation in Israel. Archaeological excavations have revealed 3 neolithic settlement phases, the middle phase is dated to the 7th millennium BCE. Its old Arabic name of Qaryat al'Inab ("Grape Village") has led Abu Ghosh to be identified with the biblical site of Kiryat Ye'arim. Legio X Fretensis of the Roman army had a station house in Abu Ghosh until the end of the 3rd century. The village has also been associated with Anathoth, the birthplace of the prophet Jeremiah.
A beautiful garden surrounds the remains of the fort and the church within it.
Unlike most of the places we visited, the Trappist Monastery at Latrun, or Lartoun, is an actual working monsstery. It was built by the Trappists in the late 1800s, and they continue to do their monkish business at the site pretty much like they always have.
The most unusual thing about the site is the name. Apparently, one of the thieves, crucified along with Jesus was named Latrun, which meant, literally, "thief". For reasons which can only be guessed at, the nearby town came to be known as Latrun, or Lartoun. One would suppose the Monks knew this when they chose this site for their Monastery. Or, perhaps, at one time they took in light fingered criminals and tried to reform them.
St. Mary's of Palestine
There were a lot of Marys in biblical times. Mary, mother of Jesus, Mary Magdalene and this Mary, who was, according to the Russian Orthodox church, a woman of such beauty that she left her family and went to the wilderness to live, with only a basket of beans and a flask of water, but was sustained by her faith for eighteen years before she was found by the Russian Monks. They built her a very nice church, surrounded by a beautiful garden.
We were on our way to the town of Magdala, where Mary Magdalene came from. Tim told us the story of Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown, who postulated that the Holy Grail was not the cup used at the last supper, but instead the contents of the cup --- that is, the blood, or the blood-line of Jesus. In the book Jesus marries Mary Magdalene, who was a virtuous woman, and they have a child. After Jesus' crucifixion, they are spirited out of the country to keep them safe, and the blood line of Jesus has continued over the centuries, a closely guarded secret. The reputation of Mary Magdalene as a prostitute was fabricated to account for her disappearance. Tim says it is a gripping story, but is, of course, in the "fiction" section of the library.
Jordan River Baptism Site
Our bus trip continued to the site on the Jordan River where John the Baptist is said to have baptized Jesus.
Baptism was, of course, a different ritual in those days. I did not mean gaining admission into the church, because there was no church, and all of the participants were Jews. It was, according to Tim, a ritual cleansing act. The traditional Jews placed a great deal of emphasis on maintaining purity as an act of worship. They did ritual washing of their bodies, and had all sorts of taboos regarding the eating of foods the cleaning of utensils, and even things like separating men and women in the synagogues.
Baptism by complete immersion was an extension of these rituals, and enhanced dedication to purity.
Several of the people in our group wanted to be re-baptized in the water of the River Jordan, and Tim accommodated them.
The Jordan, for all of its celebration in song and history, is not much of a river. It can't be more than 30 or 40 feet wide, and is pretty muddy looking for all of its ability to purify people.
The City of Megiddo
This is a 7000 year old city where many battles have been fought. It is the biggest city in the Jesreel Valley The City and the surrounding countryside is also known by the Greek name of Armageddon, which is where the final battle before the end of the world is to take place.
I believe we sent up the hill on the right in the picture of the model, mostly by bus, and then climbed the final steps to the top of the ruin. this is about the only ascent that I made where Dottie stayed behind to keep her leg muscles from causing her trouble.
City of Cesaria
Here there are Byzantine ruins with a statue of a Roman from about the third century CE, with his head broken off, as was the custom when someone conquered a country in those days. The statue and the roadway paved in Marble imported from Italy are from an earlier time.
Our final destination for the day was the Cesar Hotel in Tiberia.
The City of Tiberia was built by King Herod the Great, the grandfather of the Herod who was ruling at the time Jesus was crucified.
He moved the capital city from Cesaria to Tiberia, named for Emperor Tiberius, who was in charge at the time. One of the reasons for moving was, according to Tim, the very big commerce in fish exported from the sea of Galilee. the Romans were anxious to collect additional taxes, and one of them was a tax on each fish caught in the Sea of Galilee. Tiberia is right on the Sea of Galilee.
The Ceasar Hotel in Tiberia is a five star hotel, and far and away the nicest of those we stayed at during the trip.
We arrived in the evening and checked into the hotel. We had a room on the 9th floor, which had an beautiful view of the town of Tiberia and the Sea of Galilee. However we couldn't see it because it was too dark when we checked in. We were there for four nights, and had plenty of time to explore.
Wednesday, November 14
Caphurnum and the Loaves and Fishes
Our morning started with a tour of the town of Capharnaum, where Jesus came to preach to the multitudes. His sermon is best remembered for the miracle of the loaves and fishes, where he was reported to have fed a multitude of 5000 with only five loaves and three fishes.
Although there was no mention of St Andrew during the tour, it was later pointed out to me that he was the brother of St. Peter, and the two of them were fishermen. St. Andrew became the first disciple, because he was a follower of John the Baptist, and when John said of Jesus, "Behold the son of God", Andrew left him, and went with Jesus.
Both Andrew and Peter were fishermen, and it was Andrew who brought Peter to see and hear Jesus preach. Andrew was, allegedly, the one who brought the loaves and fishes. St. Andrew, like Jesus, was crucified by the Romans, but chose a cross shaped like an X.
Tim Halverson said, in his discussion of the miracle, that it might not have been an actual physical miracle, in that Capharnuam was a relatively small town, with nowhere near 5000 people. Some of them had to come great distances on foot to be there. In those days, they had to carry what they were to eat and drink on the trip with them, or they would starve. Many who came might have been woefully short on supplies. The miracle may have come in that, seeing Andrew and Peter sharing the loaves and fishes with others, the local people, who were well fixed with supplies, also shared, and that all of them were satisfied. A social miracle if not a physical one.
I couldn't help venturing a heretical alternative. Both Andrew and Peter were fisherman. What single trait do all fishermen seem to have in common? They tell tall stories. Their fish grow longer with each description of the feat of catching them. I think maybe there were only 12 people there originally, and yet they were all well satisfied with the 5 loaves and three fishes. However, the next time Peter told the story, the crowd size had brown to 24. By the time he got around to writing this all down, years later, the crowd size had reached 5000.
Church of the Sermon on the Mount
Jesus apparently stayed in Capharnaum for some time, preaching and doing miracles and and such. One of his more famous sermons was the Sermon on the Mount, where he spoke, according to the gospels, the beatitudes and other basic tenets of the Christian religion.
The Church of the Seven Springs
There are, apparently, seven springs around the town of Capharnaum, which helped to make it an attractive place for fishermen and their families to settle. In the time of Jesus, the town had been there for generations, with fishing as the principle industry.
When the Romans moved their capital to Tiberia, nearby on the Sea of Galilee, and declared that a tax had to be paid on every fish caught in the Sea, the Jews were outraged. The fish did not belong to Caesar, they were gifts from God. This helped foment the rebellion against Rome that caused the Jews to be driven out of their homeland in the first century CE.
I am not sure where the seven springs were located, but the Church of the Seven Springs, with its seven sides, is located within the town.
The Ancient Fishing Boat
Andrew and Peter presumably owned and operated a boat on the sea of Galilee, and used it to net fish for their own use and for market.
There were some verbal descriptions of the boats, but nothing like an accurate picture of one, but not many years ago some men walking on the shore of the Sea of Galilee spotted something interesting sticking up out of the sand. After painstaking excavation, it proved to be a fishing boat, which carbon dating showed to be from the first century. Maybe not Andrew's and Peter's, but probably very much like theirs.
There is now a museum in Capharnaum with the original boat on display. Remarkable that something made of wood could exist submerged in sea water for 2000 years!
The museum has many artifacts from the first century, but the boat is their centerpiece.
Cruise on the Sea of Gallilee
In the afternoon, we were treat went to a special lunch in a restaurant purported to be the best is Capharnuam. Their specialty was " St Peter's Fish" which was a fish served whole, baked, with assorted trimmings.
The fish was good, and it looked to me like a very large blue gill. However, I was told it was tilapia, fresh caught from the sea.
Those who did not choose to eat the St. Peter's fish got a filet of tilapia, which looked more the shape I though tilapia were. Longer and narrower. Everyone agreed that it was a good fish dinner, and tasted better because it was included in the price of our tour, whereas other lunches were generally at our own expense.
Then we departed on our promised cruise on the Sea of Galilee. Dottie was a bit disappointed, in that the previous time she was in Israel, the cruise had departed from Tiberia, and made the journey to Capharnuam by sea, rather than by bus. This cruise left from Capharnuam and returned to Caphaurnaum.
Party at the Hotel
We had nice rooms at the Caesar Hotel in Tiberia, overlooking the sea and the town. Tim and Martha Halverson, as leaders of the expedition, have marvelous rooms. They got the penthouse suite, with a rooftop garden overlooking the town and the sea. Tim was pleased and surprised, and by way of sharing his good fortune, he had a party in his suit in the evening.
It was truly delightful. The weather was very nice, and we could see for miles in eveey direction.
Thursday, November 15
The Wedding at Cana
As always, we left the hotel at about 8:00 AM for a day crowed with places to go and things to do. The first such place was both a unique place to visit, and an special treat for Dottie and me.
We went to the town of Cana, where Jesus was reported to have turned water into wine at the wedding feast, when the wine supply ran out. Tim pointed out that he did not turn water brought there to drink into water, but rather turned the water for ritual washing, at the entry of the synagogue into wine. This was his first miracle, prompted by his mother, Mary, who though it was time for him to start doing his thing. He did so in a very symbolic way, because the conventional Jews believed that holiness consisted largely of keeping the body and mine pure, and the ritual washing was an integral part of the centuries old tradition. By turning the ritual washing water into wine, he satisfied the needs of the wedding guests, while illustrating that the ritual washing was not the key to holiness.
Tim supported his case by pointing out the water vessels, which were made of stone, and near impossible to lift.
Are Dottie and I already Married?
While we were there, at the wedding chapel at Cana, Tim said he would be happy to repeat the marriage ceremony for all the married couples there, who could renew their marriage vows. Dottie and I were the only two that weren't married, but he included us in the invitation. So we, along with everyone else present, went through the ceremony, and said the vows. Tim left one part out, and I had to prompt him. He forgot to say, "You may kiss the bride," at the end of the ceremony, but he corrected his mistake.
Now, Dottie and I have been through a marriage ceremony, and repeated the vows, in front of an ordained minister. As far as I am concerned, that ought to do it. Lee County and the US treasurer may not recognize this as a marriage, but that is their problem, not mine.
Friday, November 16
We depart the Hotel Caesar
as usual, we made an early start from the hotel, but this time we had to be up a bit earlier to have our luggage outside the hotel room for pickup before we had breakfast. We had a full day of touring scheduled before we fianlly arrived at our last hotel in Jerusalem prior to a late night departure for home.
our first stop in the morning was the city of Nazareth. This is not much of a trip from Tiberia, but it probably took all day, walking, in biblical times.
Nazareth is a relatively small town, but much larger than the old section, which contains some of the excavated ruins. Mary and Joseph apparently lived in Nazareth before their trip to Bethlehem, and it was here the the angel is said to have appeared to Mary to tell her she would give birth to the messiah. Joseph and Mary were married here, and then went to Bethlehem for the Roman Census and to be taxed. Mary probably shouldn't have gone on the arduous trip in her condition, but she did, and you know the rest of the story.
Jesus grew up in Nazareth, and regularly attended the Synagogue there. We were able to see the remains of what was purported to be the synagogue he attended, which was the only one in town at the time. He was apprenticed to a carpenter named Joseph at age 12 or so, but was precocious.
After his miracles in Capharnaum, returned to Nazareth where he participated in one of the Shabat services by reading a passage from the old testament book of Isiaih, from a scroll he was handed, which said:
a: Isiaih 61:1 - 2
He read from the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, "Today this scripture is fullfilled in your hearing."
Although this was well received initially, in time the people of Nazareth came to regard it as heresy and drove him from town. They apparently pursued him to a nearby mountain, called Mt. Precipice, where they attempted to throw him off the cliff.
Also, we saw the site of the cave where the Mary had the vision of an angel who told her she would bear a son who would be named Emanuel, and would be the messiah. There is, of course, a large church, the Church of the Annunciation, built over the site now.
Mt Tabor and the Transfiguration
Mt. Tabor is between Nazareth and Galilee, and is the site where Jesus, Peter and two other disciple happened to be when Jesus became illuminated, and the prophets Moses and Elijah appeared.
The ascent of Mount Tabor is really arduous. The tour busses can only make it up about two thirds of the way, as beyond that point the road has hairpin turns too sharp for a bus. So, we went most of the remaining distance by van. We had to time our arrival so the waiting lines for the vans would not be too long.
The vans dropped us at a point still far short of the top of the mountain, and it was a tough walk up the rest of the way. I asked Tim Halverson what could possibly have caused Jesus and the Disciples to climb to the top of that mountain in the days before busses, and he didn't know. The story is that after the Transfiguration, the disciples wanted to start building a three chambered temple immediately, but Jesus said, no, they had work to do among the people.
At any rate, climb it they did, and there is now a unique church built on the site, with three separate chaples, dedicated to Moses, Jesus and Elijah. A pretty impressive church.
Acea and The underground city of the Crusaders
Our first stop was in the city of Acre, or Akko as Peshara called it, or Acco. This is a very old city, perhaps the oldest in Israel. It is locate on the Mediterranean, just a few miles north of aifa, and is blessed with a very good harbor, which made it a prime seaport for the busy sea trace in ancient times.
It was one of the principle ports of entry of the Crusaders in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, and they built an elaborate city-fort near the sea, In time, they were driven out by the Moslems, who, instead of destroying their city, as was the custom, simply brought in dirt and sand and rocks, and buried it. They then proceeded to build their city on top of the previous one, leaving it pretty well intact, rather than rubble.
When the ancient Crusader City was discovered, it was carefully excavated, and what remains now is a pretty nearly intact city. It was one of the most impressive of the many archeological spots in Israel.
The Crusaders apparently occupied the site for two hundred years, and had elaborate defenses, living quarters, market places and so on. I took about 50 photo of these remarkable buildings, which cannot be called ruins, as they are all pretty well intact, It is hard to look at the pictures and think of these places as having been burried under another, newer city.
We walked our legs off exploring this huge place. The last long walk was through an excape tunnel, which was for the purpose of getting out of the fortress if it looked like defeat was inevitable. It was a long tunnel, with sections so low some of our group almost didn't make it through.
City of Jaffa
The city of Jaffa is another contender for the oldest city in Israel. It is claimed to be 4000 years old, and, like Acre, is is on the coast and was a thriving seaport in biblical times.
Jaffa has a pretty view of the Mediterranean, and we were given considerable free time there, to shop and stroll around on our own.
St. Peter's Church
The apostle Peter stayed in Capharnuam and continued to work as a fisherman for some time, but he left there and was present in Jerusalem at the time of the crucifiction. Some time later, he and the other disciples dispersed and traveled to various countries around the Mediterranean Sea.
Peter went to Rome, and became the first Pope. The story is that he made his way from Capharnuam to Jaffa, which was a busy seaport, to take a boat to Rome. He might have made this choice because he had a friend who was a tailor in Faffa, and lived very near the port.
The home of the tailor is still there, and is, apparently, owned by a private individual now.
Peshara told us that all Moslem Mosques are oriented toward Mecca, while Christian Churches all face Bethlehem. St. Peters is an exception, in that it faces Rome. I questioned the Christian churches facing Bethlehem. In the US, they ordinarily face the street if front of them, whichever way it is running. It may be in Israel they face Bethlehem, if possible.
The final dinner before we left for the Tel Aviv Airport was at a restaurant that was a favorite of Peshara's. The meal was served in two parts, the first of which consisted of big, flat loaves of bread, somewhat like Pizza crusts with no topping, surrounded by scads of things to put on the bread, sort of like making a fajita.
Noting the similarity with Pizza, Dottie and I both ordered a beer to go with the meal. They served us each near quart-sized bottles of Heinekin, which went down surprisingly easy for the huge size of it.
When we had all finished stuffing ourselves with what we thought was the meal, the waiters brought out the main course, which was shish kabab, cooked on a sword. There were two options. We could have either chicken or lamb kebab, but they served us first, and told us about the options after we were eating. The lamb wasn't a bad second best.
Tel Aviv and the Flight Home
After Dinner, we had a little time for shopping before we left for the fairly long trip to the Tel Aviv Airport, where we were scheduled to catch our United Airlines flight back to Newark Airport at 11:45 PM.
We had a little bit of discomfort about the missiles which were being aimed by Hamas from the Gaza strip, with the Tel Aviv Airport as their intended target. Fortunately, their aim was pretty bad, and they hadn't managed to hit anything yet, although there had been a couple of missiles go into the sea beyond the airport. And, the Israeli Iron Box anti missile system worked pretty well. We saw lots of footage of them intercepting incoming missiles. Still, one doesn't like to be a target, and I had some concern that the Israelis would shut the airport down before we got out. They didn't.
We got back to the airport at about 8:00 PM, so we had a lot of time on our hands before it was time to board the airplane. It had already been a long day, and we were all pretty well bushed.
Fortunately, Dottie and I had upgrades on the flight, and were able to use the United Lounge, where they served beer and wine and snacks. We didn't have room for much, though, after an exceptionally big dinner.
The plane left just about on time. United served us a very nice dinner, not long after we took off, which was a sort of midnight snack at 1:00 AM Israeli time, or a regular dinner at 5:00 PM Florida time. Our seats were relatively comfortable and both Dottie and I got some much needed sleep.
Saturday, November 17
Insufficient layover time
Our flight time was just about 12 hours on the way back, versus 10 1/2 hours going over. This was partly due to the prevailing winds from the west, but it might have been partly due to the airline following a rather peculiar route initially. Instead of heading directly along the great circle route toward Newark, which would have taken them out over the Mediterranean for quite a distance, they instead flew almost due north, across the Mediterranean, over turkey, and toward central Europe. I don't know why.
We were due in at 3:45 AM New Jersey time, which was almost exactly 12 hours after we left the ground in Tel Aviv. They turned the cabin lights on and woke us for breakfast at about 2:00 AM local time, but we had been asleep off and on, for eight hours.
We arrived a minute or two later than predicted, because the pilot had to fly around the airport and enter from the far side to land into the prevailing wind. This should have given us plenty of time to make our connecting flight to Fort Myers, which didn't leave until 5:30 or so.
However, we had to walk a couple of miles through the Newark terminal complex, which has grown enormously since I was there last. We had to go through US Immigration, then retrieve our bags and go through US customs, after which we had to recheck our bags. Then we had to change terminal buildings, heading for an undefined gate, with little in the way of guidance. The airport was essentially deserted at 4:30 in the morning, except for the big crows standing in line at Customes and Immigration .
Dottie and I were lucky. We were the first of our party to find and board our plane. The others came straggling in, except for two couple who did not make the transfer. Somewhere they took a wrong turn, and the plane left without them. The pilot wanted to stay and wait for them, which seemed reasonable, but the station manager told him he had to leave to keep the gate open for incoming flights. So we went without them.
They caught a later flight, and got in in the afternoon, where lucky ones got to Ft Myers at 9:00 AM.
The bus driver came promptly to get us, after he was called and told we were there, and we were delivered back to our Church parking lot and waiting vehicles.
I dont know what happened the rest of Saturday.