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December 13, 2013
So what does an ordinary person like me say about traveling to the Holy Land? If I could capture my innermost feelings and bundle them into an electrical cord and plug it into your mind or heart, then you could understand the positive impact this Holy place had on a run-of-the-mill person like me.
Some of you have already had the amazing experience.
We joined 14 members of St. Paul’s Methodist in Ocean Springs, led by the Reverends Chris and Sheila Cumbest, to visit the Holy Land. In Atlanta we met another Mississippi group, including Methodist Bishop Hope Morgan Ward, who had organized the trip. A total of 51 were from our state. The tour company was named Educational Opportunities. Dr. Willis Britt, a retired minister from Mississippi, was the official guide. He lives and teaches in Jerusalem several months each year.
In this column I’ll recount only trivial occurrences that happened on the 10-day Israel trip and tell you about five people from George County who joined the group. I must give myself more time to ponder on the wonders of the Biblical places we visited before I describe the spiritual adventure. The holy sights are too important to trivialize.
I will, however, make light of what happened to five naive folks who took the trip. These incidents could, but usually don’t, happen to everyone. Jackie Praytor, Bonnie Harrell, Barbara Ryals, Mr. Roy and I were from Lucedale. Poor Mr. Roy had to deal with four rough-edged women. As did the tour group.
Rising at 3 a.m. is against my religion, but that’s how the trip began. First, I must brag on Jackie. She brought one carry-on bag and a purse. The rest of us women had to manipulate a huge piece of luggage weighing nearly 50 pounds, plus our carry-on, purse and huge coat. Mr. Roy’s luggage was light in comparison.
Jackie’s carry-on contained a change of clothes for every day, coffee-making paraphernalia, sack of medications, skin care and a ton of snacks. If you needed something, she had it. Mr. Roy was so impressed he wants her to give me lessons on traveling light. Jackie, however, wasted no time by insulting the lady in front of her on the 11-hour flight from New York to Tel Aviv. The lady had leaned her seat back to sleep. Jackie didn’t mince words.
To keep the luggage weight down, I wore my heaviest clothes plus four layers and carried my large coat. The temperature, except at the Dead Sea, matched our normal February weather in Lucedale. The days were cool but not cold.
Our group had a five hour layover in snowy New York before we headed across the Atlantic. After boarding we waited an hour while the ground crew de-iced our airplane wings. I was nervous. Bonnie and I were afraid of flying anyway, so we were praying more than the Orthodox Jews in our section of the airplane. And believe me, they prayed and paced the entire trip. There were different sects; some wore tall hats, others wore flat, and many had long pigtails for sideburns. We were educated for 11 hours on Jewish customs we didn’t know existed.
After our flight began, the airline attendants served us soft drinks before bringing dinner. My glass of Coke slid off the tray into my lap. My pants/layers were still wet when we landed in Tel Aviv.
Bonnie and Jackie were roommates and they are both talkers and humorous, so there was never a dull moment when the two were around. They assisted Barbara because she was still recovering from a motorcycle accident.
I was excited when I bought sycamore nuts from the tree Zaccheus climbed to get a look at Jesus. A different species from the tree in our backyard. Jackie told me I was too gullible. She insisted they were peanuts covered in a fake crunchy coating.
I took a picture of the famous Starbucks—except its name was Stars & Bucks. We got a laugh out of that.
Mr. Roy found a hole-in-the-wall shop that sold coffee. The owner wanted $60 for three cups. He did not pay that. My personal guide knew how to negotiate with the Palestinians (also called Arabs).
We snapped pictures like crazy, especially Bonnie—until she dropped her camera in a commode. It was kaput. She and Jackie rode a camel like pros in a circus. Mr. Roy and I took pictures to prove it. I also rode a camel, but their pics of me proved that I was terrified.
In some areas when we stopped at a W. C. (water closet), toilet paper wasn't allowed in the commode. They furnished a large trash can.
A surprising tidbit: Near the Dome of the Rock (location of the first and second temples) we were asked not to display our Bible or wear a cross! That location is sacred to Muslims.
A detailed spiritual adventure will follow in a later column.
Kay Grafe is the author of “Oh My Gosh, Virginia.” To order, send name, address, phone number and $16.95, plus $3.50 S&H to Kay Grafe, 2142 Fig Farm Road, Lucedale, MS 39452.
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