After a few days with my folks in Poland and a great celebration of the First Holy Communion of my nephew Christian I repacked my bag again and
headed to the Warsaw Airport to catch my flight to Israel. Well, it was an experience to fly with El Al to Tel Aviv. The security measures surprised even me who grew up in a communist country. I arrived at the Warsaw Airport relaxed and ready for the flight to Israel. The first thing that struck me was a number of soldiers around the area of El Al check-in. I thought that there was an incident that triggered such significant military presence, by the way the whole area was fenced off. However very quickly I discovered that it was the normal procedure. Eventually when I managed to get into the area I had to go through an extensive and detailed 40 minute interview during which I started doubting that I wasn’t a terrorist. Eventually when I got all clear I could proceed to the check in counter. I got another surprise when for the first time in my life all my bags, including the check-in one, were thoroughly checked before they were checked in. After all these adventures as the last passenger I got on the plane being greeted again by fully armed military personnel at the boarding gate. I guess my way to the plane was eventful enough as the flight itself was uneventful. We arrived on schedule to Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv. Thanks to the clear instructions from the university I didn’t have any problems with finding a sherut (shared taxi for 10 or so people) going to Jerusalem. On the bus I witnessed a situation that reminded me that it was a different country to Australia. There was a man talking very loudly on the phone. I couldn’t believe when the driver asked him, very politely but firmly, to quiet down in order to respect the fellow passengers. As we were driving into the Holy City I prayed Psalm 122 which in the time of Christ was sung by Jewish people as they were approaching Jerusalem. There is no doubt that Jesus did the same every time he was coming to this City:
I rejoiced when they said to me,
“Let us go to the house of the LORD.”
And now our feet are standing
within your gates, Jerusalem.
Jerusalem, built as a city, walled round about.
There the tribes go up, the tribes of the LORD,
As it was decreed for Israel, to give thanks to the name of the LORD.
There are the thrones of justice, the thrones of the house of David.
For the peace of Jerusalem pray:
“May those who love you prosper!
May peace be within your ramparts,
prosperity within your towers.”
For the sake of my brothers and friends I say, “Peace be with you.”
For the sake of the house of the LORD, our God,
I pray for your good.”
Eventually I found the hotel where I will be staying for the next 3 weeks. The name of the hotel is “Gloria Hotel”. The place has got 100 rooms to accommodate pilgrims coming to this Holy City. After unpacking my suitcase I joined a big crowd of pilgrims from all over the world in the hotel dining room for the evening meal. I was a bit lost as all the other people were part of different pilgrim groups. I was on my own so simply I found an unoccupied table to have my dinner. As I was sitting there all alone a group of four French people joined me. One of them was wearing a clerical collar so I knew he was a priest. Then we started talking. Actually all of them spoke a very good English. In the course of the conversation I found out that the priest is in charge of the students preparing to become priests in Paris. I couldn’t believe. For some months I’ve been trying to get in touch with this place as they have a very good training program for future priests. It was established by Cardinal Jean-Marie
Lustiger, the late Archbishop of Paris. By the way he was a fascinating personality. I really wanted to go to the place to learn from their experience but I didn’t know anybody in Paris. It looks like I had to come to Jerusalem to meet the priest. When I told him I was going to do a similar job in Australia he invited me to visit his seminary in Paris. Well, what can I say? Jerusalem is a place of miracles.