The Rock Star was three years old when he confessed his undying love for the Holy Land. Troy jaunted off on another tour of Israel and my little boy, my toddler and I stayed behind and talked to him on Skype. Garrett wanted to go--desperately.
He hasn't shut up about it since.
Troy leads tours. He's been a handful of times.
It happens like this. Troy gets to go for free. It's a working trip for him. On the trip I was on with him, back in 2005, not only did he coordinate the itinerary and travel plans--which takes months and much work, he also had to take care of different issues on the ground in Israel. He was the one who dealt with an elderly, wheelchair bound woman when she lost her plane ticket. He also deals with all the hotel issues that might arise, sudden changes in itinerary plans, etc. As such, his cost is built in to the trip.
He began planning another trip for this upcoming fall. Of course, the Rock Star began chipping at his father. "I want to go. Please please please?!?!" He even decided that he would sell candy bars door to door to help pay for his trip. It was his idea. We tried explaining that he would have to sell thousands of candy bars to afford such a trip. Still, he was determined. Off he went, knocking on door and explaining that he was earning money to go to Israel.
I told him there was no way we were going this year.
And I was serious.
Then, it just so happened, that this trip got enough people signed up to go that Troy was able to provide me with a free trip as well. Still, I told him I wasn't going. I didn't want to leave Garrett--who so desperately wanted to go--and Matthew. I didn't want to send Garrett halfway around the world without me. I'm still too attached to him to cut the metaphorical umbilical cord. Plus, with it being a working trip for Troy, I couldn't really send my first grader to Israel without me.
I told Troy that it just couldn't happen. Not unless we got a hefty amount of unexpected money.
Then he got a very nice bonus.
Then we got nearly 1500 dollars in the mail from a housing settlement we'd completely forgotten we'd even applied for.
We sat down and crunched the numbers.
With his free trip and my free trip and a third trip paid for by unexpected money, we needed to pay for one person's tour of Israel. It was still super expensive--especially because we'd just purchased a new to us vehicle--but it would never be cheaper.
I'd had other valid concerns. A tour of Israel is exhausting. I went when I was 23 and there were a few days when I was so tired I couldn't see straight--honestly. I mean, generally that was in the airport after hours of air travel but still. I can't imagine how tiring it would be for children.
Also, I can't imagine spending that kind of money for them to not even remember a trip. I doubt a four-year-old will have much memory of a trip he took before he even started kindergarten.
Still, I couldn't deny the sudden third trip's cost covered.
So we did it.
We booked four round trip tickets to Israel in October.
Garrett will be off track and will only miss two days of school. He'll experience eleven days on the ground where Jesus walked and ministered. We were able to save more money by booking airfare separate from the group (and arriving a day before everyone else). So if another elderly woman loses her plane ticket, my father-in-law will have to take care of it (both my mother and father-in-law are going on this trip as well). We'll fly to JFK and then on to Tel Aviv on Delta which saves us the domestic baggage fee cost because it's the same airline the whole way. Since we'll get in to Tel Aviv a day before everyone else on the tour, our kids can get over their jet lag.
Before we made our final decision--and while we were still very much praying about it--I took it to Facebook and asked what people thought. A few people expressed concern that Matthew was too little. I just simply couldn't leave him and take Garrett. Not only did that seem unfair, it also seemed like my heart would break a little without him for that long. Most of the people overwhelmingly said, "DO IT!"
Some wondered how, in the world, they would handle the travel without turning into raging horrors. The answer--they might. However, they've traveled A LOT in their young lives. We've driven all over the western United States. They've flown to numerous places including a red eye home from Hawaii. I'm actually not really concerned about the travel. Yes, this will be the longest they've ever traveled (18 hours to get there and 21 to get home), but I think we've prepared them as best as we can for that part.
Some questioned what they might eat since a Mediterranean diet is quite different from our own. Matthew will eat anything and everything we've ever tried with the one exception of avocado. I'm not worried about him. Garrett is certainly pickier than Matthew but not at all truly picky by our country's standards. We've always insisted that he eat what it put before him. We're good about only giving him tiny portions of the foods we know he doesn't like but I'm not worried about him either. I thoroughly enjoyed most of my meal experiences in Israel. The fruit and veggies there are beautiful and delicious and fresh. Breakfasts are typically a buffet of Greek yogurt, fresh fruits, hard boiled eggs, salad, etc. If nothing else, Garrett can stuff himself on these things and eat smaller portions if we find that his palate does not love things like falafel, lamb, and other middle eastern cuisine. Thankfully, almost all of our meals are included in the tour cost so we won't be forking over big money for either of our kids to push food around their plates.
As I said before, exhaustion and memory retention are my two biggest concerns. Thankfully, I've been there before so I can hang back at the hotel with them if they need a down day. I plan to take a great deal of video as well as numerous photos to help them retain memories of the trip. Currently, my thought is to have the boys help me scrapbook when we get back so that we can reinforce those experiences.
If they remember only a little, it should still be a life changing experience for them. When I went, at 23, it changed the way I experience my own faith. It gave actual images to places discussed throughout Scripture. I saw what Jesus saw. And that was incredible. If they can grasp, at four and seven, just a fraction of the impact Israel had--and continues to have--on me, their spiritual lives will be enriched. And that will be worth it to me.