Traveling with the Rockets: Day 10

August 18, 2011 | Features, UToday
By Brian DeBenedictis

Assistant Sports Information Director Brian DeBenedictis is blogging about the women’s basketball team’s trip to Israel.

The Toledo women’s basketball team is putting the final touches on its outstanding 11-day adventure across the globe over the next four-plus hours. And I can tell you that there are a lot of sad faces of people who don’t want this trip to end — myself included. I think most people are tired of living out of a suitcase, but I think it is safe to say we all have thoroughly enjoyed this once-in-a-lifetime experience!

There were no organized activities on today’s calendar, and I think roughly 95 percent of the team slept in and went immediately to the Mediterranean Sea or the hotel pool.

Basilica of Dominus Flevit

Basilica of Dominus Flevit

For us older folks, a group of us decided to head back to the city of Jerusalem for another quick pass through. Head Coach Tricia Cullop, Assistant Coach Todd Mitmesser, Athletic Trainer Sara Meserth, Team Physician Jacklyn Kiefer, Assistant Athletic Director for Finance Tony Zaworski, Ch. 13 Assistant News Director Anthony Knopps and I met in the lobby at 8 a.m. and caught a bus to the Holy City.

We arrived into town a little before 9 a.m. and ventured to the top of Mount of Olives — and it was unbelievable. It really took your breath away!

Did you know that wherever the historical Golgotha was located, it’s agreed that Jesus made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives? The hill is mainly a Jewish cemetery dating back to the biblical period and still in use today.

As we made our way down the fairly steep hill, we visited the Chapel of the Ascension (no explanation really needed), the Basilica of Dominus Flevit (site where Jesus paused and wept for the second time because he knew that Jerusalem was going to be destroyed), Garden of Gethsemane (Gethsemane means “olive oil press” and it is the name of the natural grotto next to the Tomb of Mary and her assumption; Jesus often visited the grotto and it was here that he was betrayed and arrested) and the Church of all Nations (noted for its fine Byzantine-style mosaic façade located at the foot of the hill). It was just stunning to admire all the beauty that each of these historic places possesses; awesome is really the only way for me to describe it!

Did you also know that there are olive groves in the Garden of Gethsemane that have been verified as being 2,000 years old? It also has been suggested that it was from one of these trees that Judas hanged himself.

Upon reaching the bottom of Mount of Olives, our small group made its way to the Garden Tomb. This place could be the garden of Joseph of Arimathea in which Jesus was buried after his crucifixion. The garden is owned and administered by the Garden Tomb Association, a charitable trust based in the United Kingdom.

A little history lesson for you all: The apostle John in his gospel mentions that Jesus, carrying his own cross, went out to the Place of the Skull (Golgotha), where he was crucified. No details were ever given as to where the exact location of the Skull was. At the empty tomb in the garden, our guide tried to explain some of the important facts about the tomb and also indicated at least five ways in which the tomb fits the details given in the gospel narrative. Intense stuff to say the least.

After the garden tour wrapped up, our group grabbed a quick bite to eat and returned to the hotel in Tel Aviv for a free afternoon of swimming in the sea, splashing in the pool, sleeping or blogging (well maybe I was the only one blogging).

We had some much-needed free time until 6:45 p.m. when the entire group left for the farewell dinner at the upscale Le Relais. As has been the case for all the meals on this trip, tonight’s dinner was top-notch!

We had salad and bread, as well as the choice of carpaccio or some sort of French pastry with tomato and mushroom on top as appetizers. Then we were given the option of steak or chicken with veggies and potatoes for the main entrée, and cake with a dark chocolate moose and ice cream for dessert. Our farewell meal was then finished off with a hot tea — perfect — truly delightful!

Following dinner, we returned to the hotel one final time and organized our 11 days of dirty laundry. Katie, you are my favorite wife!

Our group is scheduled to leave at 1:30 a.m. for the Ben Gurion International Airport. We have been instructed to give ourselves about three hours to check in and go through the security checkpoints. Our flight is slated to depart Tel Aviv at 5:05 a.m. and touch down in Amsterdam at 8:50 a.m.

We then will have less than two hours to grab some breakfast before we get back on the plane and depart for Detroit Metro Airport at 10:35 a.m. If everything goes as planned — please keep those fingers and toes crossed — our flight should land in Motown at 12:50 p.m.

Our group also has been instructed that it could take a while to pass through customs, and our goal is to arrive back at good-old Savage Arena around 4:30 p.m.

Video blogs and extended photo galleries from each day will be posted here when we return to Toledo.

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