13 travelers... ONE of us actually slept on the plane. It wasn't me. Most of us have now been awake for more than 35 hours!
The trip started off great. We were met at the temple by a very nice group of well-wishers to see us off, and the bus picked us up perfectly on time.
We made it to the Lancaster Amtrak station with plenty of time to spare, and got to Philadelphia where we had to change trains with a 45-minute layover. We made our connection just fine, but while signage indicated we had to go just TWO stops to get to the Newark Int'l Airport...um, turns out it was THREE STOPS. We started pushing and shoving to get us off the train... only to find out that we were about to lose the train at the wrong place! OOPS!
Finally made it to Newark Int'l Airport and boarded the AirTrain to the terminal. All 13 of us fit into a single car of the train... annoucement plays, "Stay clear of the closing doors." The doors start to close and then open again. This happens about 10 times before a train representative finally comes over to take a look. Seems as though one of our group (who shall remain nameless) was actually sitting agains the emergency override button, keeping the doors from closing!!! OOPS!!
So we get to the terminal and follow the crowd inside. An agent tells us to proceed via elevator to level 4 for check-in. We get up to level 4... unload the elevator... and are told we have to go to Level 2. We pile back into the elevator and ride it to level 2... unload the elevator... go to get on line for check-in... and are barked at AGAIN that we need to be on Level 4. Finally get that straightened out... and they can't find our reservation. OOPS!!!!!!!!!!
Eventually --- after already feeling exhausted -- we get where we needed to be... boarded our plane... and a simple 10+ hour plane ride is over. We made it. We are in Israel. We are in Jerusalem.
Today was really a great first day to be here. We historical monuments to the Maccabees and had the opportunity to plant trees. We ate lunch at a wonderful little sandwich shop (very much like Cosi but with a lot less English goin' on!) then made our way to the Haas Promenade which provides a magnificent view for saying Shehecheyanu, Kiddush, and Motzi overlooking the Old City of Jerusalem.
On to the Old City where we had a chance to visit at the Wall for a bit, lay t'fillin, and take in the sights. This was a very emotional moment for us all. We are looking forward to go back there tomorrow.
Finally a brief chance to check in to the hotel (it's very nice), see our rooms, take hot showers, put on some clean clothes (everyone's luggage arrived!!!!), and head back out for a very traditional Middle-Eastern dinner at the Minaret Restaurant.
Dinner -- as anticipated -- was fantastic. An endless supply of family-style Israeli/Lebanese salads followed by skewers of a lamb/beef mixture and chicken along with cumin-flavored rice. Our FIRST dessert of the evening consisted of unlimited fresh Israeli oranges and plates of baklava.
Our SECOND dessert was some amazing ice cream on Ben Yehuda Street. Didn't you know... there are NO calories in Israel.
So...looking forward to tomorrow's formal tour of the Old City after a traditional Israeli-style breakfast at the hotel.
Hope everyone back home is following allong... I'm going to sleep.