Our parish went on a Steve Ray Pilgrimage to the Holy Land this month so we decided to blow some of the retirement fund and take the boy out of classes for two weeks to walk in the land touched by God.
Israel is a land unlike any I’ve visited. Even the plane ride over was different. In the middle of the night as we all slept, a dozen or so men harkening a call none of the rest of us heard, strapped on unusual leather gear, covered themselves with shawls, got up in the middle of the plane, in a row, side by side, so that none of us could pass, faced the front of the plane and began to bow up and down while issuing forth incomprehensible uttering in a rather loud voice.
This was an unusual way to wake on a plane, groggy, disoriented, with a dozen men facing the cockpit bouncing up and down chanting in a row. One’s first inclination is Oh S---!! However, as the sleep induced fog lifts it is very comforting to recall that one is flying El Al, the safest airline in the world, and since everyone else on the plane appears quite calm it must be that what I’m witnessing is a brand of Judaism slightly more devout than that practiced by my In-Laws.
With the entire cabin roused from slumber we tried to move around, to the rest rooms, to avoid deep vein thrombosis on the fourteen-hour plane ride, to re-hydrate, anything to pass the time. Not happening, the dipping and bobbing line would not be moved. If you were ahead, you stayed ahead, if you were aft the line well that’s where you stayed.
One of our fellow pilgrims was passing the time listening to her MP3 and we were all a bit startled when she began to belt out the LOH at the top of her lungs. I mean the top, I was at the opposite side of the huge jumbo jet and I could hear her clear as a bell. Her chant was beautiful, but I’m thinking, “Barbara, come on, I understand getting into the spirit of the thing and all, but these guys look pretty serious, and I’m not to sure they are going to take kindly to your efforts here, and it is their airline after all and there’s no need to start a brawl at 30,000 feet so perhaps a bit more quietly, what do you think?”
All was well, no one got jumped, and when we asked her about it later in the trip she claimed she didn’t know she was singing out loud. She was. Our Priest was seated behind her and even he was a bit concerned about starting the trip off with an international incident.
It takes twenty four full traveling hours to get to Israel from the Midwest, not with any accounting for time change, no twenty four full travel hours there and back, and it was worth every moment spent in the car, the airport, the airplane, the bus. Worth every moment.
I’ve been turning the trip over in my mind since we’ve been home and I hope to write a post for each day of the pilgrimage. Next stop the Sea of Galilee.
For anyone interested video of our pilgrimage is on Steve’s blog at the link above. He has video of each day. Our son is the rather cute alter server, actually he’s the only child on the trip so you can’t miss him.
Thank you Lord for the gift of this pilgrimage, may you bless us all. Amen.