My journey to Israel has been an adventure, to say the least. I experienced one close call after another, but somehow, things worked out in the end. Although I would have preferred a hassle-free journey, I believe that God was working on my behalf, and I am thankful that He brought me safely though every obstacle that stood in my way. Thank you so much to each of you who prayed for me and my travels.
If you don’t want to read this fairly lengthy post, the bottom line is that, after a long and harrowing journey, I arrived safely at my dorm at Ariel University. I went to bed early, slept soundly for many hours, and woke up feeling refreshed.
The First Leg of the Journey
My flight out of Spokane was delayed due to high winds. After a bumpy ride, I ran to make my connection in Seattle. I barely made it before they closed the boarding door. That was my first close call.
When I arrived in Dallas/Fort Worth, some friends, George and Peggy, were there to pick me up. The plan was for me to spend the night at their place. Then, in the morning, they would drive me to the Near Eastern Archaeological Society conference. I would spend the next two nights at the conference hotel.
However, upon my arrival, my baggage was nowhere to be found. After an inquiry, I found that two of my bags were in Seattle, but one was still in Spokane. I was a little worried, because I had no idea what to do if my bags didn’t arrive by the time I left for Israel. However, at 5:30 the next morning, I got a call from the airport saying that all three of my bags had arrived. I was able to pick them up on the way to the conference that morning. That was my second close call.
At the NEAS Conference
The conference was great. I listened to lecture after lecture from top scholars and students who are well on their way to being so. Here are the lectures I attended:
- “Archaeology and Jesus,” by Craig Evans
- “The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Jesus Movement,” by Craig Evans
- “Archaeology and the Exodus,” by Ralph Hawkins
- “Canaanite Asherah Poles, Christian Stylite Columns, and Muslim Minarets,” by Clyde Billingtom
- “Origins of the Hebrews,” by Douglas Petrovich
- The Socioeconomics of Gleaning in the Old Testament,” by Eric Mitchell
- “The Most Helpful Online Resources for Biblically Related Coins,” by Charles Savelle and Russell Atherton
- “The Location of the Temple,” by Scott Stripling
- “Joshua 10 and the Location of Makkedah,” by Gary Urie
- “A Re-Examination of Late Bronze Age Pottery at Tel Shiloh,” by Jordan McClinton
- “Recently Discovered Altar Horns at Tell Shiloh, Israel,” by Mark Hassler
- “New Archaeological Evidence about Israelite Religious Practices in Iron Age II,” by Kelsey Kuball, Gabrielle Lingenfelder, and Boyd Seevers
- “Cutting Down Trees, Structures, and Enemies: The Use of Axes and Pickaxes in Iron Age Warfare,” by Seth Rodriquez
I saw a lot of old friends and made new connections. I really enjoyed spending time with teammates from the Shiloh excavation and with students, faculty and staff members from The Bible Seminary.
My presentation on ‘Einun pottery was well-received, and I’m pretty sure that I remembered everything I wanted to say. All in all, the conference was a profitable and enjoyable experience, but very exhausting.
Adventures at the DFW Airport
I had to leave the conference early Thursday morning to go to the airport. On Wednesday afternoon, one of my TBS classmates, Gary, tried to help me reserve an Uber to the airport. The app wouldn’t cooperate, so he offered to drive me to the airport himself. I didn’t know it at the time, but that was my third close call.
Accordingly, early Thursday morning, Gary drove me to the airport and dropped me off. I managed, with some difficulty, to drag my multiple pieces of luggage to the ticket counter, where a nice ticket lady informed me that I couldn’t check in until I provided proof of a negative COVID test. I knew that I would need a COVID test in order to fly to Israel, so I had scheduled an appointment to get one at the airport, inside security. The information that I had read online specifically stated that I did not need the COVID test for the first leg of my journey, only for the direct flight to Tel Aviv. However, since the lady at the ticket counter was going to check me in for my entire journey, they needed the negative COVID test there.
At this point, I was in trouble. Thankfully, there was a COVID testing center outside of security at the airport, but it was in a different terminal, and there was no way that I could move all of my bags that far. I called Gary and he obligingly turned around and came back. I’m pretty sure that if I had been left to my own devices, I would, at this moment, still be trying to drag my bags from Terminal E to Terminal D.
I managed to get ahold of the testing center and switch the location of my appointment. Gary drove me to the correct entrance and waited while I got the COVID test. We headed back to where I needed to check in, but I had to wait for the test results. They guaranteed results within 60 minutes, but it was getting dangerously close to my flight’s boarding time.
Finally, I got the result and headed to the ticket counter again. By this point, I was very tired and frazzled. Thankfully, a very kind and helpful ticket lady, the same one that I had talked to earlier, helped me submit all the necessary documents. From there, I ran to security and stood in line, watching the minutes tick away. I got through security without any problem and ran to my gate, which, thankfully, was close by. They were boarding when I arrived, so I made it just in time. That was my fourth close call.
The Trip to Israel
I had a good flight from Dallas/Fort Worth to Newark. The flight arrived early, and I had a four-hour layover at Newark. That gave me time to get something to eat, stretch my legs, and call home. Flights to Israel require that you go through security a second time at the gate. This gate security is often chaotic and time consuming. This time, however, it went smoothly and quickly. I was impressed.
Boarding the plane was chaotic, as is typical for flights to Israel. Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men refuse to sit next to women, so there is always a shuffle to re-seat people. However, we had an on-time departure and a smooth flight. I slept for a couple of hours, which is typical for me on long flights.
It is usually a hassle to get through passport control at the Tel Aviv airport, but they have made some changes since the last time I was there, and it went quickly and easily. I had to get another COVID test in the Tel Aviv airport, and then I headed out to the curb where my Israeli friend, Leah, picked me up.
My Room at Ariel University
I had received very little information about my accommodations at Ariel University, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Upon arrival, I discovered that I have a small studio apartment in a dorm building. The structure is built into a hillside. I am on the lowest floor. From the front entrance, it is three floors down, but on the back of the building, it is at ground level.
The apartment includes a bed, desk, and chair. There is also a kitchenette with a sink, counter, microwave, refrigerator, and stove; and a small bathroom with a toilet, sink, and shower. There are LOTS of built-in cupboards lining the walls of the apartment.
I arrived on Friday and knew that I would have to quarantine at least overnight, so I had been a bit worried about having something to eat because I figured that the stores would be closed for Shabbat (Sabbath) on Saturday. Thankfully, Leah had promised to stock the apartment with groceries, so I knew I wouldn’t starve. When I arrived, I discovered that she had gone above and beyond all expectations and provided not only an ample supply of food (both prepared food and cooking supplies), but also dishes, kitchen utensils, bedding, towels, and cleaning supplies. I am extremely grateful to her for her thoughtfulness and for making my transition so easy.
Among the dishes that Leah gave me was a little blue and white bowl. She explained that it had broken, and she had mended it. It isn’t good for holding liquids, but she thought I might be able to find a use for it. Leah is a pottery restorationist, and she works with us at the Shiloh excavation mending the ancient pottery that we find, so I thought that it was very fitting that she gave me a mended bowl.
In the next few days, I want to explore the campus and familiarize myself with the buildings. I need to find the grocery store, the laundry mat, and the library. I also want to check out a nearby fitness center that is rumored to have an olympic-sized swimming pool. I have been swimming regularly all summer and fall, and I would love to be able to continue swimming for exercise.
Sometime this week, I need to meet both with my academic advisor to figure out a strategy for starting my studies and with the administration to finalize paperwork and work out financial details regarding my scholarship and dorm rent.