We made it!!! We landed in Tel Aviv at about 1:30 pm. Israel Standard Time, Sept. 4, 2014 (8 hours ahead of USA Central Standard). The trip itself has been a challenge, but the blessings are amazing.
Some of the challenges: 1. We had a flat tire as we started to load the car to go to the airport. 2. Very little sleep the night before and almost no sleep on the 101/2 hour trip to Tel Aviv, (after delayed flights all day and almost running through JFK to check-in.) 3. After hours of waiting for our luggage at Ben Gurion, we checked with Lost & Found and learned our luggage did not make it. We still do not have it! 4. I found out my phone would not work in Israel just the day before we left, so had to pay a lot to rent another one. I thought it would be worth it to use a phone app with GPS to get where we are going. They assured us that was the best way to navigate & that it would work after getting out of the parking garage. It did not. We got turned around and took the “scenic route” for four hours trying to find Karnei Shomron, which is about a 45 minute trip normally. We hadn’t slept hardly any for a couple of days, hadn’t eaten & almost nothing to drink for 9 hours. When we got to Shomron, it seemed very hot and no ac where we are staying, so a little difficult going to sleep in spite of exhaustion. 5. Friday morning one of the young men staying at the guest house went to the grocery store with us–navigating on his iPad. We took him back, unloaded some groceries and decided to go back to the shopping area on our own to eat lunch and pick up a few things since we still had no bags. The nice young men checked my phone and assured me the google maps would get us there. We drove a short distance before I realized it wasn’t working. I thought it was my mistake because I’m using a different phone than I’m used to & not a “techie”. Later the young men told me for some reason, the GPS was not working!!! SO it wasn’t my ignorance after all. 6. In addition to having very few clothes, there are medical items, some vital, that we need that are in the bags, and my comfortable shoes for walking and cooler clothing are in the lost bags. 7. With the heat, and lack of some items that help, my skin rash is starting to break out again.
Some of the blessings: 1. On the El Al plane from JFK, we were seated next to an older lady, who seemed quiet and reserved, which of course is not me. Neal says I can talk to a brick wall, so I reached out to her and she opened up and started telling me her story. Bionia Furst was on her way to visit her brother and his family in Israel. She is a holocaust survivor–put into the camps from Poland when she was seven, and released by the Russians when she was 11 and put in an orphanage because her parents were both killed. One man came to the orphanage looking for his daughter and saw her and sadly walked away, because she wasn’t his. She was begging him to get her out of the orphanage–a horrible place. Feeling guilty, he came back the next day, took her out and put her on a train headed toward where she lived as a younger child. Some people along the way took pity on her and gave her a little food. It was winter time and very cold. When she got to the destination, she met a lady who was trying to coordinate survivors with relatives. She told her that although her parents were dead, she thought her aunt was living. She contacted her and when she arrived, it was actually her mother!! She also was reunited with her brother, who now lives in Israel. I kept saying, quietly, “I’ve heard this story, where have I heard this??” I asked her if she had told her story on any Jewish networks (one of which we get on Direct TV). She said, the woman who wrote the book, Joanne, Caras, included her story, among other survivors, in The Holocaust Survivors Cookbook, the proceeds of which go to help survivors. I was totally astounded and could not believe we were seated next to the lady whose story we had listened to just a few months earlier! We had a wonderful visit, exchanged information and promised to keep in touch.
2. Even though we were lost while driving around, (and lost our luggage) we almost felt like we were home setting foot on and seeing the land we have read so much about and where Messiah walked. The people and things we have FOUND, outweigh what we have lost! Out in this area of Shomron, there seems to be desert on one side and a blooming, flowering oasis two feet away. Reminds me of Hawaii! Ovadyah, who invited us to stay in the guest house, gave us a short tour of this part of the land right before Shabbat, showing us the actual division between the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh right in front of where we were standing, and a map of the history of the 12tribes.
3. We are having a wonderful fellowship with the two young men staying here. Johan, from South Africa and Rory, from Australia. There is no chance to be discouraged or down about any of the circumstances we have had to deal with. These young men are not only so much fun, but we all connected and hit if off right away and it is non-stop talking, laughing and having a never-ending “Midrash”. This morning, for Shabbat we started worship, reading the Bible and discussing and praying before noon and went on until well after 5:00. They have also been so helpful with our technical issues and hopefully have them fixed. We expect to see one or both of them, hopefully in the states one day soon.
4. We have had so many people who live here in the land offer help and encouragement and been so welcoming. I met several who were helpful in the grocery store. I read a little Hebrew, but a grocery is a little different from reading the Tanach–so is modern-day speaking the language. But I have run into several who have made aliyah from the states, are bilingual and offer to help in any way. I met and instantly connected with Rachelle, who came here 30 year ago from New York. She lives in nearby Ganot, she said was full of English-speaking people, and invited us to come over while we are here.
5. If you have seen the movie (in Hebrew), Ushpazin you remember all the problems a Jewish couple was having and just agonizing about what was going on. Eventually, it dawned on the husband, “This is a test!” We all have “tests” and when we realize the Father is still in control and blessing us and allowing these things for a reason, then we can carry on and look for the blessings in the midst of the test.
6. When I think of what the people in this country endure (and have for centuries), I ask myself, “What am I complaining about.” Also, you don’t appreciate what you have, until you don’t have it, and we all think that we have to have certain things. I remember Rabbi Friedman said something like, “We do not have any needs, other than to focus on His purpose for us.” If we do that, we will be content, whatever our circumstances. Hmm, where have I heard something like that? “Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.” Philippians 4:11.