Journey to the Holy Land

A group of Fijians travelling to Israel for their Holy Land tour. Picture: SIKELI QOUNADOVU

LEAVING South Korea, the team of 12 Pacific Island journalists endured another 10 hours on board the Korean Air plane to Israel.

Also on board the plane were 23 Fijians who were on a holy tour.

The group of Christians from different denominations from Laucala Beach Estate, Kaudamu Rd and other parts of Kinoya raised more than $100,000 for their trip. For some, this was their first trip outside of the country.

For devoted Christians, it is not ab­out the money but it’s the visit to the land Christ walked on more than 2000 years ago. Travelling at more than 800km/hr there was some turbulence along the way. The flight crossed over China with Mongolia towards the right.

It continued over Kyrgyzstan then to Turkmenistan flying not far away from the Afghanistan and Iran border. The plane then flew over Turkey further away from the Syrian and Lebanon border before making a turn, approaching Cyprus, arriving at the David Bengurion international airport in Tel Aviv around 9pm Israeli time.

It was unclear why we flew further away from the Syrian, Lebanon and Afghanistan border. Maybe it could either be there was no approval to enter their airspace or it was a precautionary measure to avoid anything untoward emanating from the ground.

To ensure safety, the commercial airline, at times, is escorted by a jet from the Israel Air Force. This is done if the crew has reported some security issues or the flight has not responded or identified itself according to standard protocol.

Also, in the cases when it is escorting a flight it would be very close. Close enough to see the head of the pilot in the cockpit. This is why they asked us to open the window shades before landing. In the event of a real emergency, the jet pilot will want to fly close enough to see through the windows what is going on inside the plane.

After disembarking from the plane the Pacific Island journalists were met by two members of the Airports VIP private security company. It was an arrangement by the Israeli Government to escort the team out from the airport.

After a brief explanation, the two men guided the team through an elevator down to the tarmac where a vehicle was waiting to pick up the team.

A ride around the airport, then a stopover at the immigration counter in the airport where we met Rony Greven, who was with the team for the duration of our stay.

After being cleared by Customs, we finally made the hour trip to Jerusalem where we met Yaron Sulton Dadon, the Israel Embassy adviser to the Pacific.

Next week Our visit to the World Holocaust Centre and the Israel Parliament.