Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Holy Lands Day 26-27: Goodbyes and home again

Warning: one of the photos of an airport scan (below) may offend some people. You might prefer that kids not read this one.

This morning, I walked into Trader Joes for groceries, shivering from the 50oF drizzle. "It's our last nice day for a while," says the checker. "Tomorrow it's supposed to turn cold and rainy." Ugh. I loathe Seattle weather, but our yard is nice and green and it smells of water (a dearth of that in Israel's deserts).
Back to Israel. Honestly, if we hadn't been climbing steps and hillsides and slopes a few times a day, I'd have to be rolled onto the airplane Monday. We've eaten three big meals a day plus snacks. Minding Ilan's admonition throughout the day to "Drink more WATER!!!" to stay hydrated, we've consumed many bottles of water a day. Israeli water is clean. You can drink from the taps with no problem. In certain districts like the West Bank, we were cautioned against filling our water bottles from taps. "People are wiping their b--- and then touching the tap. You want to drink that?" (No, not really. Thanks for letting us know.)

We have one key to the room. W takes it with him, a hassle when I leave the room and he's gone elsewhere. (He has so much gear that we can't leave the door open.) I've gazed up more than once at the Mezuzah screwed to the outer doorpost, but it offers me no solutions when the door is locked and I'm on the wrong side. I have to hunt him down again this morning.

Bright-colored purse/backpack and
leather tab necklace, in the market

About 9:30am, we're packed and ready to hop into taxis with 5 NU students for a final day off in a famous downtown market. We wander the aisles and pick up a few little things. I find a quirky pomegranate vase in a pottery cooperative and a few Moroccan handmade beads for leather thong necklaces. W buys some chocolate and fresh baking. I sketch a few items I might make back home because they are simple, useful, and - most importantly - funky.

We meet the students at Jerusalem Steak House for a shwarma (pita bread stuffed with french fries, salad, and strips of grilled meat. One of the students says they have lamb. Yum. We order without looking around. Except when I sit to eat, I notice that the turning meat skewer from which the shwarmas are cut are labeled Chicken and Turkey. Turkey it is.

On the way to the hotel, the taxi driver tells W a sad story and gets and extra $1.50 for his trouble. Gas is over $10 per gallon. (That IS a sad story for drivers. Every day or two, it has cost over $1000 to fill up the tour bus, even with the tour company's discounted rate.)

We rest in the afternoon. W's digital luggage scale comes in handy. After he weighs their suitcases, a few students extract worn T-shirts and shoes, as well as stones that might have come from the creek David visited before he slew Goliath.

Marc and Amy Turnage, Lukas, Ellie, and Jordan, looking
good. Keep in mind that Marc's 6'7" and Amy's 5'10"...
The evening meal is bittersweet. Marc thanks Amy for all her work in getting us here, thanks Tracy Paino for helping with coordination, acknowledges that Jeff (who's been nicknamed JMoney by our bus) helped smooth our days. Marc thanks our guides and talks about Avi's depth of knowledge and amazing humility in letting Marc lead with information. He tears up talking about Ilan - they've become great friends. Ilan says the warmth between them is mutual and respectful. The group chants, "Water, hats and water, more water!" as we cheer our guides.

We share communion for our final group session: Marc and Amy hand out thimble-sized olive-wood cups that we can take home. Tracy Paino from North Central leads in scripture and prayer before we head for the airport.

Ilan (front) and Avi (back) scouting the land
Ilan and Avi accompany us to Ben Gurian airport but we have different drivers. The guides help us through security before saying goodbye. W's luggage is searched as usual while I walk through. We buy more halvah at the Duty Free Shop, even though we have fabulous coffee halvah from the market.

W has seen to it that all NU students have seats in exit rows. (He used his Platinum Medallion status to book our tickets.) They're happy with more legroom. It's nice to sleep in after "dinner" at 2am, Israel time. I rest, watch a movie, and have breakfast at 2am, Seattle time = then I fast 28 hours, trying to reset my body clock to ward off jet-lag. "The secret is fasting 24 hours when you get home," Amy told us. It's worth a try at least once.

JFK Airport, NY
New York's JFK Airport doesn't feel anything like coming home. W and I would rather touch down this morning in Frankfurt, Singapore, or London. However, for those who haven't traveled much, the tour seemed long at the end. Several students become emotional about being back in the USA. Some of them joke about kissing the ground.

We pass through customs and immigration, put our luggage on the next conveyer, and are subject to an invasive and humiliating pat-down since we refuse to go through the airport scanners. Do I look dangerous? Doubt it. Airport security makes it a big deal every time we refuse the scanner. "Female handler needed," they shout until a female employee comes. Sometimes they make us wait for a long time before someone comes. Traveling with a group, I ask for a private room while I'm pawed.

Two men are watching the scanner screens. They make several women stand twice for scans and joke and make comments about the women after they leave - W and I are appalled. It's public porn, plain and simple, and they're getting paid to watch. (How could it be otherwise with the scans of women visible to men and vice versa?)

Did you know they see this much
of your body in a scanner? (Coverage on
left was Photoshop-ped in later.)
Still think it's ok?
BTW: How can Israel's airport be the most secure in the world and not "need" such unsafe nonsense? Israeli personnel are taught to look for anomalies to regular travelers. I watched the keen attention of the Israelis ... and 11 hours later watched NY security people hanging out and chatting to each other without observing travelers. I saw only boredom and a lack of training (or skill) in NY, compared to Tel Aviv.

We and I object to the TSA's attempt to force people through the dangerous scans and loss of privacy. It's dehumanizing. Plus, we travel too much to get that much radiation. {Read facts about radiation dangers at It says in part: "Because of a regulatory Catch-22, the airport X-ray scanners have escaped the oversight required for X-ray machines used in doctors’ offices and hospitals. The reason is that the scanners do not have a medical purpose, so the FDA cannot subject them to the rigorous evaluation it applies to medical devices... 

"As for the TSA, it skipped a public comment period required before deploying the scanners. Then, in defending them, it relied on a small body of unpublished research to insist the machines were safe, and ignored contrary opinions from U.S. and European authorities that recommended precautions, especially for pregnant women. Finally, the manufacturer, Rapiscan Systems, unleashed an intense and sophisticated lobbying campaign, ultimately winning large contracts."}

If more people objected and they needed 10X the friskers, we might choke off this scan menace, which most travelers accept as "safe" based on TSA propaganda rather than  testing.

We have a half-hour to rest in the Sky Lounge before our flight to Seattle. It's sunny above the clouds on the way home. We're home going to a 40oF drop in temperatures and sun deprivation. Ugh. I watch Discover Channel's biography of Steve Jobs: he tells Stanford graduates, "Stay hungry. Stay foolish," Many of them will not have the imagination or wherewithal to do so. I write 2 pages on what a church plant with that attitude might look like.

Several students have arranged other transportation, so we have two vans waiting... with only two or three people in each on the way to the university. "Next time, we'll ask who needs a ride back," W says, sighing over the waste of time and money of the extra van and driver.

We're home by 10:30am Tuesday. By the time all the phone calls are made and laundry is done, it's 6pm. W's been asleep since 3pm; I hold out until after 6. We both wake in the night. In the morning, I'm hungry and a bit nauseated after no food in 28 hours. I cook oatmeal, dried fruit, seeds, and nuts at 6am.

Our house is tucked away on a hill: the
white house in the middle of the forest
By 9, W's at work and I'm out the door, walking the dogs 3.5 miles (with a 375 foot elevation drop in the first half-mile and a gradual downhill from there. Then it's a 2 mile ascent of about 450 feet to the top of our street. I have to pause for breath on a very steep shortcut through a neighborhood, but wow - the hills of Israel have "done me good."

The day fills with calls, errands, calls, and writing. The blue sky peeks through now and then to remind me that it's shining brightly on the Holy Lands: the newspaper forecast for the next week in Israel showed a sun captioned "Warm" and the following days "Unchanged." I don't know that I've ever seen "unchanged" on a Seattle forecast. To my fellow travelers, I wish you happiness and easy transitions back to life at home. But let's remember with open hearts what we've learned and try to assimilate the new ideas into our life, study, and teaching.

Enormous thanks to:
  • Marc and super-Amy Turnage who make this possible and exciting. 
  • Lukas, Jordan, and Ellie Turnage who shared the journey and said they'd miss us. 
  • Jeff and Tracy who answered our questions. 
  • Ilan and Avi who took care of us and generously shared with us what they love and know about their land. 
  • Shimon and Allah for getting us there and back safely each day. 
  • NU's generous College of Ministry Dean, Dr. Wayde Goodall, who shares such treasures and possibilities with others.
Hey, I just got home from Israel and Jordan. I'm still pinching myself in case it was a dream. (Oh, wait! It's 5pm and I'd like to sleep. Probably real.)


  1. ugh! this scanner thing is appalling! what airports is this happening at? how do you know what kind of scanner you are walking through? how invasive and disturbing!

  2. They're installed at all major USA airports. After you walk thru the metal detector, they'll ask you to step into the scanner, stand on painted footprints, and lift your hands above your head. You can opt out and they'll pat you down. You can ask for that to be done in private. Most people assume it's safe and don't think twice about what is being shown!