Day 7: Farewell to IsraelSaturday, November 10, 2012 By: Sandy Thorn Clark
FAREWELL TO ISRAEL: Though Journey Home Tour participants still have Sunday to enjoy Israel before leaving on midnight flights from Tel Aviv back to their homes in the U.S. and Canada, the tour's Farewell Banquet was held Saturday night in the ballroom of the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Jerusalem.
Honored with a standing ovation was Bennett Ayebeafo of Columbus, Ohio, who earned the distinction of “Trooper of the Tour” for participating in every tour activity from walking down the steep slope of the Mount of Olives to being baptized in the River Jordan, riding a camel, and floating in the Dead Sea all with a prosthetic leg (the result of his military service) and a smile.
Also honored were Israel Banks of Des Plaines, Ill., 11, the youngest tour participant; Virginia Kausal of Dayton, Ohio, 90, the oldest tour participant; Chuck Tonkin of Knoxville, Tenn., Edith Faylor of Chinook, Wash., and Jess Shively of Seneca, S.C., who celebrated birthdays during the tour; and Donald and Mary Jane Westlake of Sun City Center, Fla., who celebrated their 52nd anniversary by renewing their wedding vows on the tour.
Eileen Petti of Colorado Springs, Col., and Zolia Reyes, of Mclean, Va., were recognized for participating in this year’s tour after both had registered for the 2011 tour but were unable to make flight arrangements to Israel last year because of a late-October blizzard that hit the East Coast. David Myers of Wauwatosa, Wis., on his fourth consecutive tour, and Pamela Spranger of Lannon, Wis., on her second consecutive tour, also were applauded.
Yael Eckstein, daughter of Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, founder and president of The Fellowship, thanked the audience for standing with Israel and thanked all Christians who help change lives with their donations to The Fellowship. “Together we can make a difference,” she said.
An emotional Rabbi Eckstein spoke of the sacrifices made nearly 30 years ago when he founded the organization to bridge the divide between Christians and Jews. “But look where we are today,” he stated, reiterating his daughter’s appreciation for The Fellowship's supporters.
AT LAST, A CAMEL RIDE: A well-behaved, nicely-groomed and, pleasant smelling camel known in Israel as the Sea Level Camel brought gasps, smiles, giggles and sometimes shocked reactions as tour participants had their first opportunity to experience the sensation of riding a camel during a stop on the road from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea. For those not brave enough to get aboard the camel, there was time for snapshots.
DEAD SEA FUN: After a cable car ride to the top of Masada, the ruined mountaintop fortress from the reign of King Herod (where, in A.D. 66, more than 960 Zealots committed suicide praising death above defeat and dishonor after the Romans besieged Masada with 15,000 men) the tour headed to the Dead Sea. There, they floated in the body of water at the lowest point on earth (at more than 1,300 feet below sea level) and covered themselves in black mud for photos galore.
SUNDAY’S SCHEDULE: After a visit to Yad L’Kashish, a Fellowship-funded project for 300 elderly and disabled Jerusalem residents, there will be stops at the Jewish Quarter in the 260-acre plot of land known as the Old City of Jerusalem, the Upper Room (also called Room of the Last Supper), and King David’s Tomb. Following dinner, luggage will be piled on buses for the trip to Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv as Journey Home Tour members sadly bid farewell to the Promised Land, but say the customary, “Next year in Jerusalem.”