Saturday, January 23, 2010

Home :)

Well, after an amazing 3 weeks abroad, Alan and I have made it home safely.

We were warned that the security out of the Tel Aviv would be a long and drawn out process- complete searches of checked bags right in front of you, major x-rays of bags, personal searches, etc. However, we actually made it out of Tel Aviv without any major holdups.

When you first walk into the Tel Aviv Ben Gurion Airport you go to zone A, B, C, or D depending on the company you're flying. We entered and headed towards Brussels Airline- section A. A security person, a young female (there were a number of young employees, a lot of them women, and we wondered if this is a possible site to learn security if you are in the army. That being said, any Israeli citizen aged 18-40 has to do 2 years in the army at the age of 18 and then stays in reserve until 40.) She asked us all the usual questions: how do we know one another, who packed our bags, did we receive any presents, and then she congratulated us on our engagement. It was a very friendly and pleasant encounter.

Step number two: take your checked on baggage to these GIANT x-ray machine. This machine was definitely bigger than an MRI machine. They had two of these machines in our zone. We plopped in our checked baggage and they shot out the other end :) My bag cleared and was good to go. Alan's, on the other hand, had to be checked for further examining. We figured that would happen because.....

We stepped up to the counter and the young woman asked: "do you have Dead Sea products in your bag?" (Yep, they're good alright...She had her own personal computer screen with Alan's bag on the counter in front of her. In Alan's bag, we had a pop bottle's worth of Dead Sea mud (Come on, it costs like 35 bucks for packaged mud! There was no way we'd actually buy that!! haha) and then we had a pop bottle's worth of salt we got from the bottom too. There was also two zip lock bags of salt crystals that were really cool and scavenged from the bottom of the sea. He told her where they were exactly in the bag, along with the location of his shaving cream, razor and any other soaps or shampoos, and we were all cleared. She didn't even open up the bag!

After we got our tickets, we were on to round number 2 of security- the classic carry on baggage x-rays with metal detectors. They were also very friendly there...and Alan got a little smile, which turned into a bigger smile from the one young woman when he pulled a bright pink lap top from his bag...hahaha...poor Alan.

After that though, we were good to go!!

We jumped on our plane at 0 35 (1230, love it!) and we took off around 120.

This is where the night gets long...haha

Even though we stayed in the terminal, we had to go through another carry-on screen.
Both of our bags got pulled to be hand searched.
The bag that I was carrying that got searched got pulled because of a metal menorah hahaha. That would be a real low if you had to stab someone with that!
As we were closing up that bag, the airport workers said, 'this sure is a holy bag!' hahaha. Yes indeed. Although, it did make me think, it was like an interfaith dialogue conference in my bag with crosses, rosaries, and then a menorah!! Love it!
Alan's bag got pulled because we had water in it (we didn't realize we had to go through the check in because we were not leaving the airport). But the guy was really nice and asked if he could dump the water, but he wasn't allowed. At that point, he let Alan go out and dump it and come back through.
Well, on his 2nd way through, he got pulled for a random search! (poor Alan haha) So, he got frisked and underwear checked and shoe bomb checked and he was good to go! The man was very apologetic though and said that the machine beeps on say, 1 in 5 people and that person is the one to get searched further. Although, what we were seeing, it seemed they were going through a lot of bags and personally searching a lot of people.

At that point, it was 530 in the morning in Belgium. The airport was great and had these couch lounge areas with no lights on. We found two love seats next to one another and each laid down. We slept until about 9am. It was really wonderful!

At 1030 we made out way to the gate. We got in one line- turns out since we had a transfer into the airport, we had to get new boarding passes. Blah. After waiting for 25 min in the 2nd line, we had to proceed to another line for questioning!

This woman was cruel to us. She grilled us for about 10-15 min on our lack of flight itinerary (we didn't print one, we simply printed our boarding passes), on how we even got to Israel, on who's passports she was holding and questioned whether we had another set of passports, on why we didn't get them stamped in Zurich on the way over (we never left the airport so we didn't have to go through customs until Israel), on who bought the tickets (Alan) and on what site (Cheap tickets. com). She was going nuts on us! Who knows what she was getting at, and I understand that they really have our safety in mind, but it was a bit much.

After that grilling, we were selected to go through another search! Bah! So, we waited for 30 min that line. There were only 3 people (and only 1 woman!!) searching/frisking. For a huge flight, they were severely understaffed for our flight. We got our carry-on bags hand searched and ripped apart (for the 2nd time in that airport, mind you) and then we got frisked. Now, the thing is, we all went through the first screening to get to that terminal. But only the people who transfered in to that airport had to go through the next search and frisking. It just does not make sense! If you're going to search half the people, why not do all at that point?!
Ugh, anyways, we left 35 min late because of that. But, we still arrived at time in DC.

We arrived around 240pm Friday and had a friend pick us up. We had no problems in customs. We came back to the seminary (45 min drive from the airport) and threw our stuff in the car and began our journey north.

Once we got to Franklin, we started unloading- both our physical things and then our memories.

There seems to be so much that we have yet to learn from this trip-
the spiritual aspects, the questions of the historicity of holy sites and then the consumerism at the sites
the complex situation of the Palestinian/Israeli conflicts within Israel and the West Bank and the Gaza strip
how we're going to integrate our reflections and transformations into our lives at home
These are just the very beginning of unfolding this trip, fleshing it out, having grist for the mill, or whatever metaphor you want to use for reflection hahaha.

I'm so glad that all could have a chance to read a bit into what we were experiencing. Thanks for all your prayers and kind thoughts over our journey.

Oh Jerusalem, Alan and I were so blessed to have seen this earthly one, as we await for the heavenly one...Jerusalem, my happy home! Name ever dear to me; When shall my labors have an end, In joy, and peace, and thee?...

There's a song we sang in Jerusalem:
10 measures of beauty, God gave to the world, 9 for Jerusalem, 1 for the rest. (Repeat 3x)
10 measures of sorrow, God gave to the world, 9 for Jerusalem, 1 for the rest. (Repeat 3x)
So prayer for the peace, pray for the peace, pray for the peace of Jerusalem...

Blessings on wherever you might be in your own journeys...It's great to be home...

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