Wheels down in Jerusalem mid-morning. Our pilgrimage was on schedule. Customs wasn’t too bad and no luggage lost. Thank you God.
Now where was Father taking us? I had to go to the bathroom since before seeing land from 35,000 feet but the line was so long and I couldn’t figure out why. That was until I heard the heavy accented flight attendant inform us that since we were within a half-hour of landing we were no longer permitted by law to use the restroom. What?!? And now Father was rushing us from here to there telling us not to look anyone in the eye and not to even joke with words like “bomb” or “terrorist”. Understood. Seemed liked common sense to me but we all know for some people common sense isn’t so common.
“Upon arrival at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, we will be met by our local guide who will escort us throughout our stay in the Holy Land and make the Scripture come alive as we follow in the footsteps of Jesus. Drive to our hotel in Jerusalem, home for the next six nights.” That was what our pilgrimage itinerary read under Day 2. We were now officially in the Holy Land. They should have put something in about “upon arrival at airport, all use the restroom.” I really had to go.
Anyway, off we went- headed through the Holy Land for the Holy City. Wanting to give us a breath-taking view of Jerusalem, our Franciscan guide instructed our Formula One bus driver to take the winding curves up to the Mount of Olives. From there we disembarked and made our way to the stone wall of the parking lot. There it was. The Dome, the walls, the ancient city. We Catholic pilgrims stood in awe. Were our eyes really beholding the same city Jesus beheld from the Mount of Olives on more than one occasion? Wait. Were we really on the Mount of Olives? Jesus went up to the Mount of Olives on his pilgrimages to Jerusalem. Jesus was here!
Fr. David had already begun pointing out different places in the city when I came to my senses. I felt like I could barely breathe because of the excitement I felt. I wanted to yell out to my fellow Christians, “I’m in the Holy Land! That’s Jerusalem over there!” I refrained… I’m sure they were glad I did. For all its zeal, it wouldn’t have been one of my brighter moments.
Fr. David continued his explanations. “And if you look there, across the Kidron Valley, you’ll see the Valley of Gehenna. Jesus referred to the….”
I couldn’t take it anymore. “The Kidron what?!?” I exclaimed.
Patiently he replied, “The Kidron Valley.”