Today the journey begins. I, along with several others from the Kentucky Annual Conference, will head to Israel for a 10-day pilgrimage. This is an annual excursion for our annual conference and for many it will be a return trip to the Holy Land.
This will be my first time in Israel. For that matter, it will be my first time leaving the United States since 1996.
While I am in Israel, I will offer daily thoughts and observations in this space. I recognize that for many the idea of going to the Holy Land is an “impossible dream,” so I want to share as much as I can about the trip in order for others to experience it for themselves.
Today is about traveling and getting ready. Our flight leaves from Lexington this afternoon and, then, from Newark later tonight. We hope to arrive in Tel Aviv sometime around 4:30 p.m. Tuesday (or 9:30 a.m. EST). Since most of the day will be about surviving an 11-hour flight, I thought I would respond to a few of the questions I have received since deciding to go on the trip last year.
Why are you going?
The answer seems obvious, but it really is not. The obvious answer is, yes, to walk in the very places where Jesus walked and to experience many of the formative places of faith and culture.
At the same time, I’m going because I love to study history and learning the connection various places have on society today. Going to Israel will be an experience of seeking to understand the story of Scripture in a deeper way as well as to have a better understanding of the larger societal questions we are working through, such as whether there should be one nation or two in Israel and the relationship of Jerusalem to the three largest faiths in the world.
Are you scared to go? Nervous?
I am more nervous for the flight. I believe the longest flight I have ever been on was about 2 hours or so from Birmingham, Ala., to Washington, D.C. I have only flown out of the country once and that was to Canada … in 1996. So, an 11-hour flight over the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea isn’t something I would normally sign up for. Give me a car and the open road and I am good to go.
I’m not really scared about the trip itself. I have all the confidence in our touring company, Educational Opportunities, our group leaders, and the fact that we are going to highly important (i.e., secured) areas. Granted, I do have my guard up after recent geo-political developments in both Israel and the United States. Scared, though, is not how I would still even describe myself. Maybe if you were looking for a word cautious, which you should be anytime you are going to a foreign nation and unaware of your surroundings.
What are you looking forward to seeing?
There are so many things I want to see and do while in Israel. I think at the top of my list is to see the Passion Week sites and to experience a bit of the common life in Jerusalem. The views from the Sea of Galilee and the Mount of Beatitudes are also high on my “can’t wait” list.
Who is preaching while you are away?
Granted, that question is really just from my congregation at Claylick UMC in Salvisa, Ky. Next week’s preacher will be … me. Our hope is to broadcast a message from Israel for Sunday worship, so that the trip becomes an interactive experience for the entire congregation.
For now, friends, let the journey begin.