Our travel to Israel was uneventful, thank God, but long. We left Tampa International Airport at 11am Friday, January 24th, and arrived at Tel Aviv International Airport 9:30am on Saturday, January 25th. We were warned in America that arriving on the Sabbath would create a few delays as most Jews do not work on the Sabbath, as they keep the Mosaic Law. Thankfully, the longest part of passport control was waiting for them to open the booth. Once opened the line, our line anyway, went quickly and we were soon comfortably sitting on our bus. Since we arrived on the Sabbath, our hotel would not be ready, so we switched the schedule around a bit. Instead of waiting for tomorrow to visit the Church and Tomb of Saint George in Lydda, and the city of Jaffa, we went today.
The Church of Saint George was originally constructed, as were many of the holy sites here, by Saint Helen the mother of the Emperor and Saint Constantine. The only bit remaining of the Church St Helen constructed were two column remnants. The current Church was built in the 19th Century. It was my first chance for a live shot, but unfortunately, as you can see from the video, I lost signal while below in the crypt and the video does not show the tomb of Saint George. Not to worry, I offered a prayer for our ministry and journey as it was our first stop. What better way than to visit Saint George!
While driving through Lydda to Jaffa we could see in the distance the Church of Saint Dorcas (Acts 9.36-43) and just knowing we were roaming the same (of course they’ve been rebuilt since then) streets as Saint Peter was in itself an inspiration. From the top of Jaffa I was again able to go live with our leader, John Lulias (brother of His Eminence Archbishop Nikitas of Thyateira and Great Britain) where you could see Tel Aviv in the distance and the shores of the Mediteranean Sea. We stopped briefly at the Monastery of the Archangels, and then had lunch on a rooftop restaurant in Jaffa. When we arrived at our hotel, our rooms were ready and after a short nap, we enjoyed dinner on the shores of the Mediteranean.
As was the case when I visited Greece, I feel connected to the past. Some might think this is a bit hokey, but as Orthodox Christians, we believe in the sanctity of time and space. For over two thousand years, holy men and women, with whom I am in communion, walked these same streets. Sure the churches we saw today are modern in perspective to the other sites, but the city is ancient. From my hotel I can imagine the Prophet Jonah sailing (against God’s will) for Tarshish instead of Nineveh. In fact a large stone whale greets visitors as they enter the city, reminding them of their ancient past.
I cannot end today without giving credit to the Diary of Egeria. Without her vision of chronicling her journey more than 1,600 years ago, I might just be walking around a city I didn’t appreciate.