Tag Archives: Tel Aviv

The Homeward Trek – Day Thirteen, 26th May

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.

The Bah'ai World Centre, and part of Haifa

The Baha’i World Centre, and part of Haifa

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

Elijah at Mount Carmel

Elijah at Mount Carmel

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!

Chapel at Mount Carmel.  The altar is made up of twelve stones

Chapel at Mount Carmel. The altar is made up of twelve stones

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Up, up and away! – Day One: Tuesday 14th May 2013

Originally we were to fly out on an afternoon flight with El Al, but for some reason this flight was cancelled and so we were transferred to flight BA165, Heathrow to Tel Aviv.  Snag was that this flight left at 08.10, which meant that we had to be at Heathrow by five in the morning, which in turn meant leaving Ely at 2.00am!  Fortunately there were sufficient of us for a coach to be arranged, and in order to ensure that we were at the pick up on time we booked a taxi to take us to the pick up point.  We carefully built in some time in case the taxi was delayed – or forgot us! – so of course it arrived early and Yvonne and I and our suitcases were therefore the first arrivals in a cold, dark Ely car park with more than a suspicion of damp in the air.  Even our coach hadn’t arrived yet!

All was well, however, and eventually other members of the party arrived as did the coach, and our journey properly began.  Next problem, on arrival at Heathrow,was to find Maureen and the other members of the party and find the check-in.  That accomplished there was time for a very early breakfast whilst we waited to find out what our departure gate was.  And yes, it was one of the further gates at Terminal 1 so a longish walk ensued

If this part of the journey is so memorable what is Israel going to be like!?

I confess that I’m not madly keen on flying but our Airbus seemed to be slightly more roomy than I remember from 747s in the past, and the screen built in to the back of the seat ahead is a great improvement on the old drop down screen on a far away bulkhead.  Not that this time I was worried about the in-flight movie; it was more a case of trying to doze comfortably.  I opted to follow our journey on the live map.  Great fun!

We had breakfast and lunch on the plane before arriving at Ben Gurion airport at 15.10 local, ten minutes later than scheduled, but since we had taken off 24 minutes late I thought that wasn’t too bad.  Once again there were long walks before we passed immigration, were reunited with our baggage and each other and found our guide and coach to Jerusalem.

One of the benefits of an afternoon arrival rather than an evening one was that we were able to have an orientation tour of Jerusalem before going to the hotel. Featured were Mount Scopus, the Kidron Valley and the Mount of Olives, where we stopped and got out of the coach so that various landmarks could be pointed out.

Finally at the Hotel we found our rooms, the baggage retrieved a wash-and-brush-up then it was time for our first meal in Israel – an open buffet.Image

And so, some 18 hours after our journey began (and with no sleep on Monday night) to bed!