Susie's Travelogue
Pilgrimage to the Holy Land
(Oct 21-Nov. 7, 2013)
Part 25

By Susie R. Cuñada
Holy Land Pilgrimage Travelogue #25 –Border Crossings (Egypt-Israel-Jordan) /
Departure
We left Taba at 1:00 pm and crossed the Taba-Eilat (Egypt-Israel) border.  We got off the coach (Egyptian side), said
goodbye to Osama, took our luggage out and wheeled it across the border and into the building (Israeli side). It took us
about an hour and a half to go through the routine security checks of lining up, putting everything into the x-ray machine, and
passport stamping.  A coach was waiting for us on the Israeli side of the border and we were dropped off at the Arava
border.

Reminder:  As mentioned in Travelogue #6, strictly NO pictures allowed at the borders (or at police checkpoints for
that
 matter).  Do not even attempt to take your camera or your smartphone out of your purse or bag.

We crossed the Arava-Aqaba (Israel-Jordan) border and waited at the Jordanian side of the border for almost 2 hours
without knowing why.  I was exhausted at this point that I didn’t even bother knowing the reason for the delay.  That’s the
positive side of joining a group tour.  Everything is taken care of.  Just pack a lot of patience.  And that’s exactly what we did:
WAIT.  Patiently.  And as soon as we crossed the border, we had to change our timepieces by an hour ahead.  I can’t
believe it was 6:15 pm!  Whew!

We were met by our fave guide, Ahmed, and we then proceeded to Stella Maris (Star of the Sea) Church in Aqaba for our
last Mass officiated by Fr. Neil, at which Mass I read the First Reading.  What a way to end our pilgrimage!

After Mass, we proceeded to a seafood restaurant (the fish was to die for) for our last dinner as a group.  The ambience
was full of good vibes and camaraderie.  Thereafter, we boarded the coach and endured the long 4-hour drive to Amman
International Airport where we arrived at 1:00 am local time.  Really?  Did I get a chance to doze off?  Must have….

Anyhow, we went through the airport in a breeze as we didn’t encounter any problem checking in. Our plane finally took off at
3:15 am.  However, our flight encountered a terrible turbulence which lasted for an hour.  One full hour!!!  To say that it was
frightening was an understatement.

Our plane finally touched down at Frankfurt International Airport (thankfully in one piece) at 6:00 am (local time).  Again, we
had to change our timepieces back by 2 hours.  We had a layover of 4.5 hours after which our plane finally took off at 11:00
am.

It was a looong flight of about 10 hours so I passed the time by watching the documentary “The Baltic Coast from Above”
which reveals the beauty of the Baltic Sea Coast of Germany from a bird’s perspective.  Very interesting…..

Still with lots of time left, I then watched “Around the World in 90 Minutes”, an exhilarating ride aboard the International
Space Station as it orbits the weird and wonderful planet that we call home.  Be prepared to be inspired, shocked and
surprised.

Our plane finally touched down at YVR at noon of November 7th.  After passing through Customs without a hitch, Tessa and
I bid each other goodbye, with a promise to go on another trip in the not-too-distant future.

Conclusion
A pilgrimage is the journey of a lifetime that every present-day disciple of Jesus should make to the earthly Jerusalem. It
creates a rare vantage point for the one who makes the journey.  It is a glimpse of a place where heaven came down to
earth and left on that spot the indelible mark of divinity in the dust of the desert. God's presence permeates the very soil on
which the footsteps of the Master trod. A pilgrim who follows in those footsteps cannot help but be changed and have his
life transformed by the experience.  For when at last we reach the pinnacle of the mountain on the journey of life, we will be
able to look back with satisfaction and see that this pilgrimage to the Holy Land was one of the most spiritually fulfilling
experiences of our lives.

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A Few Closing Thoughts

In Jordan, I had anticipated the glories of Petra (although it's a place that has to be experienced to fully appreciate it), but I
had not anticipated the Roman antiquities I would find at Jerash, which was awe inspiring and beautiful, and the stunning
landscapes of Wadi Rum.  I was also taken with the great physical diversity of this small nation - from the temperate north
to the southern deserts and the beautiful resort areas on the Dead Sea and at Aqaba on the Red Sea. Jordan offers
something to please every traveler.  I loved the time we spent in Jordan, and I would highly recommend it as a destination to
relatives and friends.

Israel, on the other hand, is a captivating place.  The holy sites are remarkably spiritual and historical.  It is full of holy roads
leading to some of the holiest sites in the world for Christians, Jews and Muslims.  And you guessed it right – all roads lead
to Jerusalem!  As the new slogan says, “There is a little bit of Israel in all of us.  Come find Israel in you.”

As for Egypt, not many people can say they lived one of their dreams, as to have seen and experienced the Great Pyramids
of Giza and the Sphinx, but I am lucky and blessed enough to be able to say that I did.

As the cliché goes, “Take only pictures, leave only footprints, and you will have memories to last you a lifetime.”  I couldn’t
agree more.

For me, this pilgrimage was a life-changing experience - a time of spiritual nourishment, of deepened faith, of soul-
searching and discernment, of new resolutions and strengthened commitments and, yes, of fun, enjoyment, and new
friendships.

In closing, I could say that this trip to the Holy Land was more than a trip of a lifetime; it was the defining experience of a
lifetime - one that I will never forget.

So folks, this concludes my Holy Land Pilgrimage travelogue.  I encourage you to visit the Holy Land.  I guarantee you - You
will never be the same.