It was a dark and stormy morning on Monday, April 27. There were tornado warnings and even confirmed tornadoes for Baton Rouge, Gonzales, and near New Orleans, where I was supposed to fly out at 5:30 PM. New Orleans Advocate story and pictures of stormy weather on April 27, 2015 I ran the bulletins for the May 3 service and ran a few errands before loading the car about 12 PM. We stopped in Ponchatoula to eat and the let the New Orleans airport clear a bit because the weather was so bad that they were diverting planes after closing the airport earlier that morning. Arrived at the airport about 2 PM. I said goodbye to Jana and started my Israel adventure.
Security at the airport was long, but moved fast. I guess it was everyone leaving New Orleans the day after Jazz Fest. When I cleared security and got to the gate, people were running to catch a plane to Atlanta, their schedule delayed by the bad weather. My own flight to John F. Kennedy airport in New York was also delayed, not leaving until about 6.
I was on a small regional jet and one of my carry ons had to be stowed under the plane. I snuggled in next to the person in the adjoining seat and we were off to JFK. I read and played games on the way to NYC, hoping that I would be tired enough to sleep some on the 10+ hour flight to Tel Aviv.
When I landed at JFK, I was basically one level below my gate for the flight to Tel Aviv. Emile met me at a burger place in JFK just down from our gate. I ordered a burger and fries and finally received it after a long wait. The restaurant was in a hurry to clean up, so that they could close at midnight. Our flight must have been one of the final flights out of JFK because the airport was almost empty, even in “the city that never sleeps.” After eating, we went straight to board the plane. It was chaos. The waiting area was too small, so many of us were forced to stand.
The variety of people was interesting. There were many orthodox Jews with hats and conservative dress, others wearing a yamaka on their head. There were also many Christians with Bibles or study guides. As we started to board, we went through another level of Israeli security. I forgot to take off my watch and the metal detector alerted. I removed my watch, they scanned it, and I went back through security and passed!
Finally, I boarded the plane. It was 9 seats across! The biggest plane I have ever been on! I was near the back of the plane- aisle seat on the left side. I was seated next to 2 women from Florida. They were also Christians headed to Israel for plilgrimage. One was working on a study guide.
The flight was LONG! I watched “Exodus- Gods and Kings”, read my Israel tour book and tried to sleep. But I soon discovered there was not much room! I think I got about 2 hours of sleep. The flight was pretty smooth, just a little bumpy over the Mediterranean sea and as we left JFK.
When we arrived in Israel, the passport control long was quite long. When I finally got there, the official asked me who I was touring with. “Gordon Tours” I replied. “Is it a Delta company?” he asked. “I don’t know” I replied. He asked to see my boarding pass and let me through. I guess he decided that I had not swam to Israel!
We found our baggage quickly and our tour guide. She put us in a cab driven by Ronnie. Ronnie rarely spoke to us, but I only thought I was going to die a few times, so not too bad a ride in a foreign cab! Got to the Grand Court hotel after about an hour and a half drive from Tel Aviv, made longer by construction. We checked in to room 937. It was a long walk to reach our room from the elevator, as our room was on the opposite side of the hotel.
We arrived in Jerusalem a little after dark, about 7:30 PM. We went to the room and unpacked a little, then went down for supper. Supper was good- chicken, beef, broiled fish, and lots of salads and vegetables. Lighter than American fare. Lots of desserts and they were very good! We were hungry after the airplane meals.
After supper, we walked around a little, buying a few bottles of water at a nearby corner shop. We walked through a little shop at the next door Olive Tree Hotel, then returned to our hotel. We considered going to the Old City, but we weren’t sure exactly how to get there. My phone was dead and I had left it in the room to charge, so I was no help. I mostly wanted just to sleep anyway. We returned to the room, did some unpacking, and turned out the lights about 10 PM.
Thanks for sharing Kevin, I really enjoyed reading the start of your journey to Israel. I felt as if I was sitting next to you and was on your Pilgrimage to Israel.