Following is a guest blog about the Everest Collegiate Senior Trip to the Holy Land in Israel. The first installment was written by teacher and chaperone Jason Tower.
After saying goodbye and getting last minute hugs from parents gathered at DTW airport, we headed through security to begin our journey. The pilgrims first fueled up at McDonalds and Starbucks inside DTW, where there was a multiplication miracle of hotcakes as Luke Luttinen’s order of three hotcakes was interpreted as three orders. After a short flight to Toronto, we settled in for a long layover. Athena Levine’s portable table tennis set provided hours of entertainment for the boys (although they could not beat Ms. Rembold), while cards and Netflix passed the time for the others. We then boarded and prepared for a long flight to Tel Aviv where sleep was a precious, but rare commodity for most.
Upon arrival we discovered a pretty empty airport as the Jews know how to take the Sabbath seriously, and all public transportation and Israeli owned airlines were shutdown. We then headed north to the coastal town of Haifa where some of our pilgrims used the bus trip to get caught up on sleep which was deficient from the flight. Even though we were headed to lunch it was 4:30 A.M. back home.
In Haifa we had our first taste of the local cuisine and then went to the Bahá’í Gardens, connected to a place of worship for the Bahá’í faith, that run in terraces up the side of a mountain and overlooks the city. The Bahá’í is a newer and lesser known monotheistic religion of the Middle East. After seeing the Gardens – and taking no small amount of pictures – we headed to a monastery of the Carmelite order that sits upon their namesake, Mt. Carmel. There in the Basilica of Mary, Star of the Se, we saw the cave where Elijah hears God in a still small voice, although my ears were still equilibrating and no whispers could be heard. We celebrated Mass on the same grounds, and Father Daniel reminded us creation exists so that we can be in communion with the Lord.
After some of the boys stopped at the souvenir shop and some of the girls stopped for lattes, we got in the bus and headed East to Nazareth. After driving through lush land filled with rolling hills and forests, we got some much needed showers, rest, and dinner. Then most of us went to the Basilica of the Annunciation where the Church celebrates the event when the Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and, with her “Yes”, the Word was made flesh. We will be going back tomorrow to celebrate Palm Sunday Mass (March 25 is actually the traditional date for the Feast of the Annunciation, but because it coincides with Palm Sunday the Feast has been moved to after Easter). It was nice to be able to go to the grotto that was Mary’s house at night, when there were fewer people. A few of us stayed and celebrated a procession with locals and other pilgrims from around the world.
Stay tuned. More to come!