Day 1: Arrival & Tel Aviv
We, who call ourselves the Church of San Diego, are safe and sound in the Holy Land! There are 44 of us and we come from different churches, but in following the language of the Catholic Bishop of San Diego, we are all one Church, so we call ourselves the Church of San Diego. Side note: We're actually not all from San Diego - we have a few friends and family members from other cities who met us here - but close enough! The majority of our group is Catholic, but we’ve been honored to welcome a few Protestant and non-practicing Catholics with us as fellow pilgrims on this journey.
We took off Monday night in a plane that was a third full! Those in economy seating had entire rows (sometimes 7 seats to themselves!) to stretch out and sleep in. Travelers were encouraged to move and walk around every few hours. Our pilgrims could be seen watching movies, painting, reading, and sleeping right through the plane ride. We arrived in London at 1pm and had 8 hours until our plane departed again.
About half of the group chose to stay in the airport, enjoying a drink at the terminal pub or shopping. Others ventured into London for a few hours to see friends, enjoy a nice lunch, or sightsee.
We arrived in Tel Aviv at 4am and made it to our hotel at 6am, just in time for a delicious breakfast! Wednesday was a completely free day, allowing time for rest and exploration of the surrounding area on our own time.
Many of us ran into each other out on the boardwalk in Tel Aviv, in the market in Jaffa, or at a local bar enjoying a drink or a burger. Jaffa is the location where St. Peter raised Tabitha from the dead and where he stayed at the home of Simon, having a dream requiring him to eat unclean meat. This dream prompted Peter to accept Gentiles as Jesus-followers as well, and we sure are happy he did!
There is a church and monastery at the site dedicated to St. Peter. The church was constructed in the late 19th century on top of a 13th-century Crusader castle, which was, in turn, built on top of the original settlement's acropolis. Today, it is Jaffa's most well-known landmark. From the courtyard, a staircase leads down to the vaulted chambers of the Crusader castle. No travelers were able to find the staircase but we did get to see a beautiful Mass inside the church with Polish pilgrims.
Jaffa has a thriving flea market with beautiful art, rugs, soap and clothes being sold to passersby. The day ended with a stunning sunset over the Mediterranean Sea and a delicious dinner. We are excited to move up the coast tomorrow and head over to Nazareth.