The End From the Beginning: Last Things First
Vol: 90 Issue: 31 Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like Me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure:” (Isaiah 46:9-10)
A one-week tour of Israel is all that is necessary to prove the pinpoint accuracy of that statement. We’ve stood on Tel Megiddo where the children of Manasseh failed to drive out the Caananites who dwelt there. It was on Tel Megiddo that Kings Ahaz and Solomon stabled their warhorses.
When one stands upon Tel Megiddo and looks out over wide green valley below, it is obvious why this was once the most strategic military outpost in the known world.
In Hebrew, a ‘Tel’ is an artificial hill created by layers of previous civilizations. As such, Tel Megiddo bore witness to the story of the Israelite conquest of the Land of Promise in the beginning of the story of Israel.
Tel Megiddo will also bear witness to the story’s conclusion, when the all the world’s armies gather together one last time in that same valley the Apostle John called the Valley of Armageddon.
The end from the beginning. Not such an easy trick as one might think. It is one thing to predict the New York Yankees will win the pennant in any given year.
It is another thing altogether to predict how each game in that season played out in order to get them to the Series, first.
The winning game is at the end of the season, a contest between two teams, one of which could be the New York Yankees. It would be a good guess.
But predicting how the third game of the season would ultimately bring the Yankees the point where they would even compete — before going on to predict all the details of all the subsequent games, showing at each point along the way where one outcome affects another, and how they all come together at the end. . . I think you get the idea.
Everywhere one goes in Israel one sees elements of the beginning, the middle, and the end. And somehow, they all blend together into a timeless harmony.
There seemed no conflict in standing in the midst of a 4,000 year old ruin, looking out over the Valley where someday the world’s greatest battle will be fought out over who owns Jerusalem.
Particularly since dotting the area are the shells of destroyed tanks and other military equipment; rusted monuments to previous efforts to force Israel to give up Jerusalem.
The end from the beginning. That is the theme of our series of reports from our fact-finding mission in the Holy Land, for that is what it turned out to be.
In keeping with the theme, our first report will be about the end of our trip, so we can get the unpleasant parts behind us.
Our guide, Boaz Yuval (much more about him later) cleverly deduced that we would need more help navigating Ben Gurion airport at 2:00 AM than even an experienced world traveler like myself (with one previous trip in 1994) might be able to provide.
Our departure from Jerusalem was like a snapshot of our entire visit. We arrived at the airport where our driver handed us off to the airport guide Boaz had assigned to meet us. He whisked us into the airport to the first line of security.
There were four lanes filled with travelers. And this was just the first layer. Not to worry. A few words from our guide, and suddenly a brand new lane was opened.
I was motioned forward by an Israeli official who asked me a few questions about the group and our activities. Our entire group then slid through security in less time than it took to process one person in the line beside us.
After we had arrived in Israel, Alitalia decided to consolidate two flights into one in order to fly a full aircraft. This created a cascading series of problems that began at the next layer of lineups to secure boarding passes.
Once again, our airport guardian slipped up, spoke a few words to the officials, who then quickly resolved our problems as if we really were the Very Important Persons we were made to feel we were throughout our time in Israel.
From there, we were processed through final security to our gate, still in Israel — but no longer in Israel — as we waited to board our flight to Rome.
It soon became obvious that we had left the city of God and touched down in the city of Satan. (And he evidently wasn’t happy to see us.)
Let me begin by saying Alitalia’s flight crew could have given rudeness lessons to New York cabbies, (with apologies to New York cabbies for the slur.)
If they’d ever run an airline before, it was hard to tell. It certainly seemed like this was their first day.
Alitalia overbooked the aircraft, and was trying to force the elderly couple in front of us to leave the aircraft because they weren’t on Alitalia’s ‘list.’
The old man was defiant: “That’s your list, not mine. I’ve paid for our seats and we’re not leaving.”
The airline seemed equally determined. First came a stewardess. Then, two progressively larger stewards. Finally, the pilot himself came out, to no avail.
The old man stood his ground.
The plane sat on the tarmac.
The sun came up.
Finally, the pilot made an announcement in Italian that made everybody groan except us. So he repeated it in English so we could groan too.
It seems that while Alitalia had overbooked its flight with passengers, it simultaneously under-staffed it’s flight crew. So we were going to have to wait for Alitalia to find sufficient crew to man the plane and then get them there.
About four hours after we boarded the aircraft with too many passengers and not enough crew, the captain announced we were ready to depart from Rome.
Which by that time was good news only in that we didn’t have to sit there anymore — nobody had a prayer of making their connecting flights in New York.
The flight took three hours longer than usual; the TV screens displayed a GPS navigation screen from time to time that gave us flight information, airspeed, location, and so forth.
At 11,000 meters, the headwinds were more than 205 km/h. (Translation: 33,000 feet/127 mph: Our airspeed was therefore a third less than it had been on the flight over when we had a favorable tailwind.)
The flight from Rome began at sunrise. When the sun set, we were approaching the coast of Newfoundland. Since we were chasing the sun, that day had an extra six hours in it.
We touched down at JFK in fog so thick that when the GPS said we were at 100 meters, I couldn’t see the ground.
Most every incoming flight that day had been canceled, those planes going out were going out full of passengers from previous flights.
Gayle had cleverly scheduled us with a six hour layover in New York so our connecting flight hadn’t left. We got there in time to board, but our luggage couldn’t go.
So we got bumped and handed standby tickets for the next day. Some of us were blessed to find hotel rooms, others spent Sunday night at the airport.
Between the storms in New York and the storms in the Midwest, some of our group hasn’t made it home yet.
We got home just after noon on Monday morning. I ended up with a mild case of food poisoning and am still unable to stray far from what the Israelis call the WC.
That was the end. Tomorrow, after the jet lag cobwebs begin to clear, we’ll go back and start from the beginning.
But last things first. If we ever do this again, it won’t be with Alitalia.