Remembering a trip to Israel right before COVID

By Ron Slechta
Posted 7/27/21

Recently I have been working on identifying and placing photos in a Blurb picture book on the trip that Helen and I took to Israel the first week of March 2020 just before the COVID-19 pandemic …

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Remembering a trip to Israel right before COVID

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Recently I have been working on identifying and placing photos in a Blurb picture book on the trip that Helen and I took to Israel the first week of March 2020 just before the COVID-19 pandemic closed the boarders to Israel. I had started designing and placing photos shortly after we returned home, but that project was interrupted when we had to resume ownership of The News.

Recently I have been spending evenings editing photos so I can finish the book.

First, we were afraid that COVID may cancel our trip, as this place was at the top of our list to visit so we followed through with the trip. Getting to Israel was somewhat of a challenge, but we were able to fly to Tel Aviv, Israel with a short stop in Paris where we changed airplanes.

Our trip home was a little more eventful as our scheduled flight was canceled just hours before we were to leave for home. We had a good travel agent who rerouted us through Amsterdam and Minneapolis instead of Paris and Atlanta. Whenever you travel overseas, we highly recommend using an experienced travel agent.

We arrived in Israel on a bright sunny day without any concerns about the pandemic spreading worldwide, however, concern about the pandemic started to be a concern. We were scheduled to visit Bethlehem on March 6 to tour the Church of the Nativity, but, mid-day on March 5 our tour guide learned that the gates to Bethlehem would be closed due to some COVID cases reported there that evening, so we quickly changed courses and went to The Church of Nativity. We had to lean over to enter the church through about a 4-foot-by-4 foot hole.

The church was very impressive. We made it to the lower level to see the shrines where it is believed that Jesus was born.

As we left the Church of Nativity, the doors were locked and no one else was allowed to enter for about three months. The same thing happened to us at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. We were in the church only for a short time when the clergy, using gates like those used to move livestock, ushered us to the entrance. We were unable to see where that church said was the tomb of Jesus after he was taken off the cross. It is enclosed in a large shelter.

Once outside the Church of Holy Sepulchre, we witnessed a procession of Jewish, Muslim and Christian clergy march into the church where they were believed to be praying to end COVID. Again, we were among the last to be in the church before it was closed to the public because of COVID.

Space doesn’t allow me to tell the complete story of our trip. However, there were several things that impressed me and raised some questions. A tomb in the Church of Holy Sepulchre is said to be the Tomb for Jesus. However, outside with the walls of old Jerusalem is a place called the Garden Tomb. We were able to go inside that tomb to where it is believed that Jesus was placed after the crucifixion. And the Sea of Galilee is really a freshwater lake. Joseph was a stone carpenter or mason as most homes at that time were caves or made of stone.

These are just a few of my many observations of Israel. If you ever get an opportunity to travel to Israel, you should go. Be prepared to walk on very rough surfaces.

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