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Sunday 30 September: PARTY TIME

We wake up in good time to fit in another final full English breakfast before driving to the airport to catch our flight to Israel. Included in our overnight stay package at the Premier Inn are two ‘all you can eat’ breakfasts. As per usual my eyes are bigger than my stomach and neither of us can actually eat as much as we think. If the truth be told we are still full up from last evening’s sumptuous meal. But we don’t know what we are going to get to eat for the rest of the day so we force ourselves to eat as much as possible anyway!

After breakfast we take the short drive to the mid-term car park where we are leaving our car for a month. It is all very straight forward really. We park the car and then catch the shuttle bus to the terminal. We have been told to arrive by 9.30 a.m. but we are there by 9.00 a.m. in the hope of being able to get some ‘speedy boarding’ passes. We are flying by easyJet and we know from previous experience that it can sometimes be something of a ‘bun fight’ to get two seats together without speedy boarding. We tried to book them on line when we were informed that we were flying by easyJet but couldn’t do so since it had to be a whole party booking and some of our party didn’t want speedy boarding. We have been assured that getting speedy boarding won’t be a problem because ‘speedy boarding can always be purchased on the day’. When we go to the easyJet information desk we are told that no speedy boarding is available because they were all sold out weeks ago?!

We return to the easyJet check in only to be told that we have to wait until 9.25 a.m. on the dot in order to check in. Finally we are allowed to check in and discover that our cases are well within the weight limit … unlike the couple ahead of us who seemingly have to dispose of half the contents of their cases. The cheap luggage scales we purchased from the 99p shop in Weymouth (Weymouth is too poor have a £ shop) have actually worked in our favour by erring on the right side.

Having disposed of our luggage we go through security without any problems – no removing of shoes or belts this time – and head for Starbucks for a coffee. We sit in the departure lounge for an hour or two until our flight is called. We are then separated into three queues – one for those with speedy boarding, one for those with young children, and one for the rest of us. The queue for those with speedy boarding seems immense. The queue for those with young children is reasonable … until the ground staff invite all those who are prepared to have their hand luggage stored in the hold to join it. Immediately half the remaining people in our queue desert and join the queue for those with young children?! As it turns out we have nothing to fear. Our plane holds more people than those who are travelling and Julia and I get a couple of nice seats by a window.

We are joined by a very nice young Jewish lady who is flying back to Israel after a walking holiday in Scotland. She tells us that her name is Michel (like King David’s wife) and that she is a computer software designer. I ask her if she can show me how to work my new iPad? She laughs! We enjoy a smooth takeoff and a pleasant flight. After an hour or so I get up and go for a walk down the plane to find the toilets. I get into conversation with a very pleasant young man who asks me why I am going to Israel? I tell him about our sabbatical and he asks lots of good questions. He tells me that there is another group of Christians on board who are going to Israel to ‘stand in prayer with Israel’ and wants to know if I am part of this? Later on I meet up with some of this group. They are very pro-Israel, and we have an interesting conversation as I have a heart for the Arab Christians.

After a very pleasant flight, during which we enjoy an excellent packed lunch that we bought at Luton Airport from Pret-a-Manger (surprisingly it was quite cheap) we land in Israel. We get though customs quickly and easily and are met by a man with a large NETS sign (short for Nazareth Evangelical Theological Seminary) who turns out to be a taxi driver sent to drive us to the Saint Margaret’s Hostel in Nazareth where we will be staying for the next few weeks. We also meet Chris and Margaret, who are also going on this sabbatical, who were on our flight but neither of us knew what the other couple looked like. They come from the Southampton area and are very nice. We look forward to getting to know them better.

It takes just over an hour to drive from the airport to Nazareth. When we arrive at Saint Margaret’s Hostel, May Arthur (the wife of the Principal of the Seminary) and Azar Ajaj (one of the college lecturers) are there to meet us. May has made all the arrangements for us, and she is also one of my Facebook Friends, so although we have never met I feel that I know her already. Another member of the sabbatical group, an American lady named Charlene, is also there. There is an amazing party going on in the hostel courtyard when we arrive. We wonder if it has been arranged in our honour to welcome us to Saint Margaret’s, but it turns out to be a Christening Party for an Arab Christian family.

We are shown to our room and our luggage is carried up for us. It is quite a nice room, somewhat basic but en suite, overlooking the courtyard, with a large TV that has English speaking news programmes, and internet access. A light supper has been prepared for us that actually turns out to be quite substantial. There are the various salads that we remember from the last time we were in Israel, and there is chicken as well. After supper we return to our room and unpack. We then go down to the courtyard to watch the Christening Party celebrations. It is fascinating. There is music and dancing to go with the eating and drinking. The men are all handsome and smartly dressed, and the women are all gorgeous and wearing dresses out of the latest fashion magazines. They are having a wonderful time. It is a real celebration of one of the rites of passage – the birth of a new baby. There is a great band, and the dancing is fascinating. It is kind of slow but very rhythmic, and even I would be able to do it. It is a kind of ‘dad dancing’ but nice with it! Julia and I just sit there watching everything that is going on and thoroughly enjoying every moment. We are so glad to be back here again and are really looking forward to this sabbatical time. Eventually we go to bed, tired but happy, with the music still ringing in our ears … which is just as well because the party goes on until gone midnight!

Jim Binney

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