Much has happened since the last post. I’ve finished my twelve year career at Lakeland Regional Emergency Department. I was filled with contradictory emotions as I completed my last shift on Friday night. Joy and melancholy rushed in together to create a whirlwind of sentiment. The nursing and support staff were wonderful over my last few days, which seemed like a continuous party and showers of well-wishes from my co-workers. I can’t thank them enough for their kind words and expressions of love.
With eighteen straight days of work behind me, Cindy and I were ready to fly off to the Holy Land, a trip we had been planning with our church in Lakeland (All Saints’ Episcopal Church) for the past several months. For some inexplicable reason, neither Cindy nor I slept well Friday night. So, we started out our trip a little tired and grumpy – not so good when we have a long, long, flight ahead of us. After picking up a few odds and ends, we drove to the Tampa International Airport for the first leg of our flight: Tampa to JFK in New York. Our three-hour flight went off without a hitch, arriving in New York at around 9:30. After a quick snack, we boarded our completely filled Boeing 747 for the almost ten-hour flight to Tel Aviv. Once again the flight was uneventful. Even with our purchased upgrade to Comfort+ seating, ten hours on a plane is not fun. Cindy and I could not get seats next to each other so we both sat in middle seats (no aisle or window seats available) for the flight. Fortunately, we both were surrounded with very nice and personable people. I was excited to learn that the guy on my right played defensive line for the Georgia Bulldogs in 1988. He also was an Olympic weightlifter and a World’s Strongest Man competitor. The bad news is, that’s not the body size you wish to have next to you when you are in a middle airplane seat. It wasn’t so bad, though.
Cindy and I slept little on our overnight flight that left New York around midnight. We perhaps slept for 1-2 hours each. We arrived at the Tel Aviv airport shortly after 5 p.m., Israel time – a full seven hours ahead of Florida time. It was so exciting to make our approach over the Mediterranean Sea to touch down in Israel. The entry into the country was quite simple and efficient. We made our way through the short lines of passport control, found our luggage and joined the tour group. There are 34 of us from All Saints’ who’ve made the trip to the Holy Land. We’ve done a couple of tour groups before, but this is especially nice since we are touring with friends.
Because it was raining quite hard when we first arrived, the bus pulled around from its normal spot to pick us up under a canopy. We boarded and began our 40 minute ride north up the Mediterranean coast to Netanya. Tel Aviv is the business and banking center of Israel, but not the capital. That distinction is owned by the city of Jerusalem. One might imagine Israel to be an ancient place of ruins and rural landscapes, and it is, but it is also a country with very modern cities like Tel Aviv.
After a short while, we made our way through the Sharon Plain to arrive at our destination for our first night’s stay, Netanya (Hebrew: gift of God). This city of almost 200,000 is home to a large Jewish immigrant population. Over the past few years, it has become the home of a large number of French Jews who are fleeing France over the increasing anti-semitism. Our hotel for the evening was the Netanya Ramada, a gorgeous hotel sitting right on the Mediterranean coastline. From our dining room, we could watch the sun set over the Mediterranean Sea. How cool is that! We did not arrive at the hotel until after 7 p.m, so by the time we finished dinner (which was eaten immediately upon arrival), it was dark. Cindy and I made our way to our lovely room before I took a quick 10-15 minute walk along the beachfront. The temperature was cool, in the mid-50s, so the walk was invigorating and served to wake me, at least, temporarily. Back in the room, we hooked into the excellent and free hotel wifi and I took a nice hot shower. We planned to make it to bed around 10 o’clock to be ready for our wakeup call at 6:45 a.m. A busy day awaits us on Day Two!