Over a year ago, my husband and I were on one of our usual 10,000 step walks. A man walking his dog stopped us. He said he’d watched us walk by his house for years and felt it was time he knew our names. This prompted a conversation that eventually led to us traveling with him and 37 others to Israel.
Many years ago, our church organized a trip to Israel, and we talked ourselves out of going. It was too expensive, our boys were too active to burden anyone else, etc. We have been remorseful ever since. When the man, Steve, told us about the trip that he and his church were organizing we did not hesitate to commit. Everything fell into place. We ended up knowing quite a few of the other travelers. Two pastors were going with us as guides, these two pastors held classes for us to prepare us for the trip. There was a growing bond with the group and each of us had a story about how the trip had been set up in an individualized, spiritual way. For us, we received an unexpected check in the mail that was only $17 short of what we needed to pay our balance.
At one of the classes, Pastor Ed explained that often travelers become overwhelmed in Israel because moving geographically through the area conflicts with the actual Biblical timeline. To help us with the ability to understand what events happened in which places, he provided an inexact timeline:
2000 BC Abraham
1500 BC Moses
1000 BC David
500 BC Daniel
0 AD Jesus
1000 AD The Pope was established
1500 AD Martin Luther
20th Century AD Israel reestablished in 1948
The itinerary fell perfectly into place. We were to take a charter bus from our hometown to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) on November 16, 2023 where we would catch our direct, 14 hour flight to Tel Aviv. We would begin our tour in Ezuz, then travel to Mount Karkom (the real Mount Sinai), the Wilderness of Paran, Eilat, cross into Jordan for Petra, the mountains of Edom, Mount Nebo and Amman. From there, we would go to Yabok, the mountains of Moab, Beit Shean, Sussita and Galilee. From Galilee we would travel to Mount of Beatitudes, Caesarea Philippi, Mount Arbel, Mount Carmel and Jerusalem. Then, Masada, Ein Gedi, Qumran, Dead Sea, old Jericho Road, City of David, Western Wall, Kidron Valley, Mount of Olives, Bethlehem, Bethesda, Stations of the Cross, church of the Holy Sepulcher, Mount Zion, Garden Tomb, and back to Tel Aviv. Yes, quite the itinerary, but an exceptional excitement for us. For years, we’ve read the Bible daily and are familiar with the locations where many of the Bible stories occurred.
We were ready. New walking shoes, weather expectations, passports in order, Known Traveler Numbers (KTN’s) procured, tour guide tip money secured, luggage and clothing strategy prepared, etc.
On October 7, 2023, I received a text from my mother that simply said, ‘Israel attacked today by Palestine.’ I asked my husband if he had heard anything and there was very little news coverage at this point. We assumed it was a skirmish that would blow over soon, not giving it much thought. Then we received an email from Steve on October 13, 2023, that, after much reflection, it had been determined that our trip would be cancelled. Up to that point, my husband and I had decided we would go regardless. Much to the objection of our family, we explained that if we were going to die, what better place than the Holy Land. But that choice had been taken from us, much to the relief of our family. It was just so surreal. Everything had fallen into place easily – it was weeks before we could wrap our heads around this tour being cancelled.
Back in 2022 when we had committed to the trip, we were encouraged to obtain trip insurance. At the time, Israel required that all travelers have the insurance. We had never insured a trip, but it was a necessary hoop for this one and we paid $575 for the two of us. As you might imagine, there was somewhat of a relief that, after learning our trip had been cancelled, remembering that we had insurance for such an event. Or so we thought. I pulled out the actual ½ inch agreement and, it only covers terrorist acts if they occur within 30 days of departure. The attack began 40 days in advance. I don’t know all of the headaches that went on behind the scene as the trip organizers tried to navigate the insurance provider, but in the meantime, I developed a growth on the back side of my leg, about where the knee is located. My doctor referred me to a dermatologist who saw me the next day. Three days later I was in surgery to remove a growth of Squamous Cell Carcinoma. Due to the location of the growth, I would have very limited mobility for at least 3 weeks. I was conscious during the procedure and told her about my Israel trip and the insurance. A similar thing had happened to her years earlier when she was planning on travelling to Cairo and war had broken out just prior. She too had trip insurance, but her claim was denied for similar reasons as ours. My husband got to thinking, with my medical situation, perhaps my claim could be approved for this issue, regardless of the terrorist attack. My dermatologist filled out the medical form and I submitted it.
As is often the case in life, we are on one trajectory that looks solid, only to have the rug pulled out from us as we lay in bewilderment. But as Christians, we know that as long as we’re prayerful, it will all make sense at some point in the future. In the meantime, we’ll eagerly wait for the next door in our future to open.
Thoughts that are alien to any of my other projects can be found here.