It is here in my talk of my trip to Israel that I will comment on some of the folks with whom we traveled.
As I said in a prior posts, during meals you could sit with whomever you wanted. But our bus rides were color coded. AJ and I were on the blue bus, with a tour guide named Dan. Dan was outstanding. His historical knowledge was on display during our entire 12-day trip and he knew a lot. When someone had a follow-up question to something he said, he always knew the answer. It was clear that he had been doing this tour for a long time (he said he was in his tenth year leading tours around Israel). He was warm, funny, open and engaged. Just a great, great guy.
The lead tour guide was Ezer from Holyland Pilgramage Tours. He was very tall and definitely very capable. He had a magic touch of being able to calm the locals who were upset at being invaded by a large group of 150 people at all these holy sites. I tried to get a picture of him with AJ, since she says she rarely meets men taller than her. Alas, I was never able to get it because each time I asked him, he said he needed to do something and moved along. I’m sure he’s a nice man, but we never really got to know him much.
We met a wonderful lady named K who was part of our group. She and I ended up becoming Facebook friends by the end of the trip. She was on our bus and ate many meals with us as well. She had great stories and we were all very much at ease with each other from the very beginning of the trip.
The tour group ages ran the gamut from folks in their early 30s to AJ begin the oldest in her late 80s. Well, there was one other elderly gentleman there who was blind and used a wheelchair, but given that some of the 60 year olds looked/acted older than AJ, there’s no telling how old he really was. He ended up having a stroke while we were in Jerusalem and is still in the hospital there. He won’t be cleared to come home for another week or so. So please pray for his recovery so that his family can bring him back home to the US.
There was one guy on our bus who I dubbed the Know It All. A few days of the trip we sat in front of him and he LOVED to hear himself talk and spout off his knowledge. When Dan would ask a question, KIA was always the one to answer first. When Dan would tell us an interesting fact, KIA would dispute it with his own information. When we drove by something of note. KIA would hypothesize on its origin. At first he annoyed the fire out of me, but then he amused me when he was clearly wrong, or when his wife shushed him. At one point we were heading somewhere and he turned to his wife and said, “You know what car manufacturer doesn’t have cars in Israel? Mercedes. There are no Mercedes cars in Israel.” No lie, folks, about two minutes later I saw not one, but two Mercedes driving along right next to our bus. At another time he began speaking loudly in opposition to something that Dan was saying (not loud enough for DAN to hear, but loud enough for the 3-4 rows around KIA to hear), and I heard his wife say, “Shhh….let Dan talk now. He’s from here – he knows what he’s talking about.”
We also met two young couples with whom we ate dinner one night, and they were my people. Same sense of humor, same interests – it was just a really fun, fun dinner and I enjoyed their company tremendously after sitting at a few “dud” tables in a row.
As for Lon Solomon, you know how if you can’t say anything nice, you shouldn’t say anything at all? Um. Okay. I’ll stick with that notion. I will say that he is clearly one smart, smart man. He knows his Bible and his history, for sure. He has a powerful testimony regarding his faith in Christ. And that’s all I’ll say about that.
In conclusion, despite my dive into becoming an introverted extrovert over the past 10-15 years, I can honestly say that I truly enjoyed meeting new people during the Israel tour. And of all of them, AJ was the best. Yes, I had to answer the same questions hundreds of times (not kidding), but she was a joy to travel with. At one point she lamented that she felt bad that I had to travel with her. I said, “You know, AJ, if you were a mean person, I’d be miserable right now. But you aren’t mean. You are really nice. So I’m having a really good time.”