As uncomfortable as it can be, I like to get on a plane and head to a new country. Maybe the novelty hasn’t worn off yet; this is my 3rd such venture. But something about the journey stirs my soul and mind like little else. That’s probably why I enjoyed Walking the Bible, one of our homework assignments, so much. As I finished Bruce Feiler’s book on the first leg of our trip, I savored his wisdom: it was a profound chronicle of the soul as much as it was a travelogue or excursus into archaeology & sociology. His eloquent word paintings left me desperately wishing that we would also be visiting the Sinai, the Nile, Petra, and Mt Ararat.
Once our group of about 25 arrived in Newark, the most striking characteristic was the diversity of voices in the food court. Several different languages could be heard as we walked to our table; we passed a pilot was talking with his daughter. At the gate for Tel Aviv, we went through a unique additional screening at the gate, then quickly found ourselves boarding with many Orthodox Jews on our flight, wearing kippot or black suits & hats. After takeoff, as the beverage cart passed, the girl in front of me who was about the same age as my oldest son stood up in her seat to ask, “Abba, can I have seltzer?” just like he would have begged for root beer.
I usually don’t have a problem sleeping on international flights, but I was a bit more keyed up this time – I’m not quite sure why. Excitement? Too much reading of the State Dept’s travel advisories? Remorse at not brushing up on my Hebrew? Nonetheless, I finally succeeded in getting some shut-eye.
I awoke to the morning Mediterranean light streaming in through the windows. I could smell the coffee brewing, and Orthodox & Chabad men were huddled in their respective dress, praying. The requirement to remain seated & seatbelted once we entered Israeli airspace, as well as the varieties of prayer I could see from my seat, brought to mind our own small prayer time standing in the lounge at Newark, with Bishop Huie leading us in the traditional Wayfarer’s Prayer.
May it be Your will, LORD, our God and the God of our ancestors, that You lead us toward peace, guide our footsteps toward peace, and make us reach our desired destination for life, gladness, and peace. May You rescue us from the hand of every foe, ambush along the way, and from all manner of punishments that assemble to come to earth. May You send blessing in our handiwork, and grant us grace, kindness, and mercy in Your eyes and in the eyes of all who see us. May You hear the sound of our humble request because You are God Who hears prayer requests. Blessed are You, Adonai, Who hears prayer.
May we experience that peace, which passes all understanding, among everyone we meet this week. Amen.