Four of us boarded our Tel Aviv tour bus, heading for Jerusalem. We were grateful to be here, considering the airport interrogation my sons Jeff and Andy, Andy’s wife Kristen, and I received when we left Miami, Florida, heading to Israel. We had anticipated a memorable—probably tearful– Christian experience as we would navigate the country where Jesus had spent much of his life.
To say it was memorable is an understatement.
The Miami El Al Airline agent began the questioning before we even checked our bags. “How do you know each other?” “Where did you sleep last night?” “While you were asleep, did anyone have access to your luggage?” “Has anyone been near your computer in the past few days?” “Why do you all live in different states?” “When was the last time you slept in your parents’ house?” “How many bedrooms were in that house?”
And that was just the beginning. Since Andy is coaching for the K.C. Royals and moves frequently, his answer to how many flights he had taken over the past few months raised eyebrows. Two senior agents were called in to further interrogate Andy and Kristen about their lifestyle, especially since they live in different states part of the time.
Obviously, not just anyone is allowed into Israel.
After convincing the panel of interrogators we were not a threat, we were allowed on board. Even Kristin, apprehensive (to put it mildly) about a trip to another country, later shared that the 12-hour flight had been an unexpected pleasure.
Jeff had arranged to rent a car, and at the AVIS booth in Tel Aviv, he was told that the actual price was five times the original quote because four of us would not fit into the size car he had rented. I chose not to take that personally. That, plus the hidden costs, caused the price increase. As we lugged our suitcases, backpacks, etc. to the pick-up zone, we were excited to see the sleek cars available. Unfortunately, those were not ours. Ours was in a different area. Ours was the size of a golf cart–a mini golf cart. Our laughter was uncontrollable as we crammed our possessions into whatever cavity we could find—including the dashboard, under our feet, behind our necks and in our laps.
Arriving at our rented condominium, we were pleasantly surprised at our spectacular view. Overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, we could see hundreds of bikers, runners and walkers filling the trails along the beach. Israel was alive and inviting. Tomorrow we would bus it to Jerusalem and walk the Via Dolorosa. Let the tears begin!
Which is where this story starts. We awoke early to board our tour bus, but as we did, a siren sounded, an alarm similar to the ones I heard in drills as a child when we were given instructions on what to do if an atomic bomb headed our way. Everyone was removed from the tour busses parked by ours, and we were ushered to a stone wall nearby. Explosions were heard at a distance. Our tour guide explained that those sirens had not sounded for four years, and it probably had “something to do” with the fact that Israel had killed a Palestinian Jihad militant and his wife in Gaza the night before.
Or it has something to do with the fact that I am in Israel, I told myself.
When the sirens stopped, we boarded our bus, our nerves a little edgy. (Being bombed has a way of doing that, you know). Shortly after leaving Tel Aviv, our guide explained that apparently Gaza had retaliated with air strikes, but because Israel is protected with an “Iron Dome,” the Gaza missiles had been shot down. Supposedly the Dome is 90% effective. Still, there’s that little 10% element that would keep us on our toes.
What can I say? We wanted a memorable experience, and we were getting one.
Not surprisingly, it would not be our last.