06 December 2009

On the Ground

Well, we're here, safe and sound ... a bit jetlagged, but that's nothing a couple of rest days haven't been able to fix.  The connection here is slow and tenuous so photos are going to be a luxury, I think.  That's not for lack of subjects, however!  The city of Bethlehem is a visual feast, and the weather has been outstanding thus far, enabling us to get out and enjoy the city (and its shrines) as we please.  The following is a short journal entry for our trip over.  More to come!


Wednesday, 3 December 2009

The first leg of our travels has brought us safely to Zurich.  I can safely say that the eight hour flight was one of the more pleasant ones I’ve ever taken.  We were offered most every amenity, including real silverware for dinner—though to my chagrin, I slept through the offering of the hot facecloth right before breakfast.  A lamentable disappointment.  Those unable to sleep whiled away the hours with the ample in-flight entertainment; Elliot managed a pretty convincing impression of a thirteen-year-old by playing Space Invaders games for hours on end, fueling his binge with one cup of apple juice after another.  A Jewish man moved to the back of the plane to offer his prayers, wrapped in a white shawl and rocking back and forth on his heels while turned to face Jerusalem.

It’s a sobering thought to recall how difficult our 8-hour journey would have been even a hundred years ago.  The rapidity of global travel has erased any real concept of distance we once had.  Whether dining on hot chicken and rice over Newfoundland, sipping a glass of red wine with Iceland on the horizon, or enjoying a hot roll and chilled yogurt while the English Channel sails by under the wing, there is no question that our experience is a far cry from the ever-tossing, frigid, cramped accommodations enjoyed by the passengers of yesterday.  I could almost picture them, green and shivering in the hold of a ship pitched over hard to leeward in a gale, terrified that the timbers would give way with each thudding wave that smashed into the bow.  Friends, I very nearly pitied them as I spread strawberry jam onto the warm croissant in my lap and took a leisurely sip of hot, black coffee.  The collective and sustained efforts of aviators, engineers, navigators, and entrepreneurs has whittled down the grueling, even life-threatening character of a transatlantic voyage to one night of mild discomfort offset by the consolation of any number of amenities at hand to keep the mind off the dreadful inconvenience of it all.  There are days when I wonder if we wouldn’t be better off without the phenomenally advanced technology of our day, with all its tendencies to numb our souls and distract our consciences.  Today was not one of those days.

Zurich is tidy and quaint, but as one of my fellow pilgrims put it, I’ve only got so much pilgrim juice in me, and there’s no sense in handing it out indiscriminately.  It’s naptime at our hotel, a nice hot shower before dinner, then back on the plane this evening to Tel Aviv!  Bethlehem, here we come.

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