As I mentioned in the early posts our flights outward and home were meant to be with El Al, but for some reason I am not clear about we were moved to BA flights. Outwards that meant a very early start, and it would have been similar going home, but our BA homewards flight was not until 16.40, which meant that we had an extra half day, and McCabe very kindly arranged an extra tour for us. We were delighted that we had Ali back to drive for us as it was like meeting an old friend.
Once we had all the luggage sorted out and checked onto the coach we moved off for our bonus journey. Our immediate objective was the Muqraka, otherwise Mount Carmel where, traditionally, Elijah had his contest with the prophets of Baal. It’s about an hour’s drive from Tiberias but it took us a little longer as we made a couple of diversions to see other places as we passed by in the coach. After Tiberias much of the area we drove through was good agricultural land, and it was amazing to some of us to see that already the wheat harvest had been gathered in. We discovered that this was the first harvest and there would be a later one. Fertile ground indeed!
Our route took us around the port city of Haifa, where, apart from the dock area, one of the landmarks is the Baha’i World Centre, with splendid gardens and a panoramic view over the city. Ali took the road up the mountainside and we were able to get off the coach briefly for the spectacular view.
Unfortunately in the picture you can’t get much sense of the magnificent gardens which have a restricted access.
Onwards to Mount Carmel, passing through a couple of Druze villages. Here the land is much more stony and difficult to cultivate with machinery, and was a vivid reminder of the Parable of the Sower (Mark 4, 1-9).
On the summit of Mount Carmel is a convent of the Discalced
Carmelites (i.e. they don’t wear shoes) <http://tinyurl.com/pacjkz8> and a rather fierce statue of Elijah slaughtering the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18). The Chapel there was simple and relatively plain, and there was a courtyard garden in which it was a pleasure to sit for a while. It was possible to go up to the flat roof of the monastery and look at the view, and particularly down the Jezreel Valley. On a clear day it is possible to see Nazareth and Mount Tabor from this vantage point.
From Mount Carmel we had a panoramic drive through parts of Haifa, during which we saw other major landmarks like the University of Haifa and the Technion, or University of Technology, which is the oldest university in Israel.
Our drive then took us on to Jaffa, the ancient city known as Joppa where Peter lodged for a while by the sea with Simon the Tanner after healing Tabitha (Acts 9, 36-43). Here we had lunch, and some of the party took the opportunity to make a quick trip down to the seashore and paddled in the Mediterranean!
And then it was back to Ben-Gurion Airport to check in for our flight. Fortunately we were able to go through as a party rather than as individuals, but nevertheless I was one of the few who were called aside for a stricter examination of the luggage. It turned out that what had raised suspicion was my folding walking stick which was interpreted as potentially a dismantled rifle. On the way out this had been in my hand baggage in case of need, and in a fit of absent mindedness I had packed it in my hold case! Fortunately we found out before I had to unload all the dirty washing for examination, and I have to say that the young lady who dealt with me was very courteous and pleasant, unlike my experience in 1999.
The flight home was uneventful, but the cloud cover prevented us from seeing much of the terrain below. We arrived slightly early and eventually found our coach back to Ely, and we finally arrived home just before midnight ready to fall into bed.
So ended our pilgrimage, and in the days that have followed we have been mentally processing our experiences and making sense of the frenetic days. We have made some new friends, and got to know others better. And I don’t think that process will stop!