Friday, March 5, 2021

One Night In Tel Aviv

 5th March 2021

One Night In Tel Aviv

“The tragedy of the passion brings to fulfilment our own life and the whole of human history. We can’t let Holy Week be just a kind of commemoration. It means contemplating the mystery of Jesus Christ as something which continues to work in our souls.” –Saint Josemaria Escriva.

It was precisely the thought of contemplating the mystery of Jesus, that urged myself and my husband to want to make a Pilgrimage to the Holy Land. That and the fact that it was on his “Bucket List.” We’d talked about it for years. Finally, it was the approach of Peter’s 70th birthday that gave us the push.

“We’re not getting any younger,” he said, “let’s go while we still can.”

I loved the idea of seeing all the Holy places, those places I’d been to many times in my imagination, placing myself as one of the characters in a scene — where Jesus was born, where the miracles took place, where he celebrated the last supper with his friends, and so much more — yet, for me the sense of urgency wasn’t the same.

His 70th Birthday came and went without us having made a plan. As always, we needed a little nudge. That nudge came from a dear friend we visited in the July, four months into Peter’s 70th year. Our friend, who had a terminal illness, enthralled us with stories of his many visits to the Holy Land. Keen for us to go, he even offered to plan the trip for us and to pay for it. If he was willing to do that, we reckoned it was definitely worth us making the effort so we promised each other that we’d get to the Holy Land before Peter turned 71.

6th March 2020

We are on the coach to Jerusalem.

“On your left is a mount, reported to be where Jesus caught up with Cleopas on the road to Emmaus…”

We look out of the window — a field, buildings in the distance, grey skies (just like England, it’s raining).

Yesterday, we set off with hopeful hearts, leisurely dropping our baggage off, after a night in the hotel at Gatwick, and having enjoyed a cooked breakfast — sausages, bacon, eggs, tea, orange juice. Totally relaxed.

Three hours into the five-hour flight one little toddler near us couldn’t cope any longer. Everything her mother and father tried — playing with her, feeding her, walking up and down with her, — was met with ever increased screaming. I had great sympathy for the parents struggle and as I wondered if there was any way I could help, I watched another mother, sitting beside me, with a child of similar age, put down the book she was reading to her little boy, root in her day bag and pull out a snack box of raisins.

“Might these help?” she offered the other mother both the raisins and a warm smile that said, I know what it’s like, we’re in this together. As her eyes caught the gaze of the other, they both shared in a moment of deep, yet universal understanding. For me it was a privilege to witness such a simple act of kindness that meant so much.

With peace restored I returned to my guidebooks and my dreams of our Pilgrimage. There was so much to look forward to, not least the chance to have meals dished up to me twice a day, having nothing to do with them except eat them. That sounded like Heaven to me.

When the plane landed Peter and I helped the little families off with all their belongings. The two families with the toddlers had other small children who took up the arms of both mums and dads, so we helped with pushchairs and bags, for which they were all very grateful.

As we waited for our baggage, we found a few people who were also on our Pilgrimage. When we all had our bags we went as a group to find our guide.

Nidal, ticked us off his list in almost military fashion. Two pilgrims kept us waiting for fifteen minutes because they were hungry and had to find food. None of us were impressed. Nidal told us that he had some bad news, but he’d tell us on the coach. We walked behind him in pensive mood wondering what it could be. Maybe one of the Holy sites isn’t open, maybe a hotel can’t take us and we have to go to an inferior one, what could the bad news be?

On the coach we hear the news,

“I’m afraid your Pilgrimage is cancelled.” Did I hear properly? “Bethlehem was put on a 30-day lockdown this morning, just before your plane took off, due to the coronavirus. We couldn’t get the message to you in time. The people coming from Manchester have been informed and won’t be joining you …” he went on. I’m not sure what else he said. Something about going back to England tomorrow. We’ll stay one night in Tel Aviv. Bad news? Yes, but God’s will. So, we rejoice. “He has another plan,” said a lady at the back of the coach. Yes, I thought, you have another plan, Lord.

The Embassy Hotel in Tel Aviv didn’t do dinner. Nidal told us we’d be reimbursed £30 for a meal and we had the whole of the City to explore. At any other time that might have sounded like a tempting adventure, but after a long day travelling and knowing that there’d be more of the same the next day, the gift lost its shine.

With our bags thrown into our room and after a quick wash, we didn’t think it was worth changing, we set out of the Hotel onto the city streets.

Tel Aviv, on the Mediterranean coast, looks like most seaside towns or cities anywhere in the world. Not wanting to get lost we walked in straight lines, not veering far away from the main road that ran from our hotel down to the sea.

We peered in restaurant windows. It was my worst nightmare. I didn’t understand the menu and couldn’t work out how much a meal would cost us. There was no way I was going into a place without knowing how much I was likely to spend. We kept walking.

“Ahh, Mexican, can’t go wrong with that,” poor hubby just wanted to eat. Same thing, food and prices I didn’t understand. I couldn’t bring myself to chance it. We kept walking, kept walking…

“Let’s look down here..” we turned the corner, “we’ll just go down a bit, not too far. Hey, is that a pub there?” It was.

Molly Bloom’s an Irish pub, hidden in a side street. I felt my shoulders relax, my breathing slow. This was something familiar.

“Do you do food?” we asked


“Do you take dollars?”

“Of course.”

We were shown to our table. I smiled to myself when I saw the Irish beer mats. Irish music was playing in the background, harps and shamrocks decorated the walls. We could easily have been in a pub in any village in Ireland. Even some of the other customers were Irish. I felt at home. We sat with our Guinness and waited for our vegetable shepherds pie and I thanked God for the blessing of finding such a great place.

Next morning after breakfast at six forty five, we set off on the coach to visit Jerusalem. Nidal pointed out places on the way — the Mount of Olives, the place where Jesus met Cleopas on the road to Emmaus and the Garden of Gethsemani, with the Church of Mary Magdalen.

We walked along the Via Dolorosa, ending up at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre where Jesus was buried. It was all a rush A shame.

Back on the coach, Nidal said goodbye and left us with the driver, who drove us to the airport. As we approached the terminal, we saw all the lanes into the airport shut off. Men in uniform, carrying rifles -police? Army? Militia? — directed the driver to pull over to the side. What on earth is going on?

Silence settled on all pilgrims on the coach as the driver was questioned. Then the uniforms, three of them, peered through the windows. They wanted to talk to a pilgrim. Seconds passed slowly as they waited for a volunteer. Then my husband stood up. I resisted the urge to pull him back. I watched him from the window, answering their every question with a smile. Good in a crisis, my husband.

It turned out we were the only flight out of Tel Aviv that day. The airport was eerie with just the one planeful of people wandering around the cavernous halls.

What a relief it was to touch down at Gatwick Airport.


  1. Hi. I've come here through #Ten Things of Thankful, and I am amazed at your story of the unusual trip to the Holy land. Thank you for sharing it.

  2. So sorry that your dream of a lifetime vacation didn't turn out the way you were expecting. What a disappointment. I am sure those young families on the plane appreciated the help you gave them as they departed the plane. Glad your husband is "good in a crisis." No doubt your fellow passengers appreciated his willingness to answer the questions being asked by the men in uniform. After such a trip, being able to finally be back home, safe and sound surely must have felt wonderful.

  3. Who knows, you may get to try again. If not, He has a better plan.


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