Touchdown in Ben Gurion, Tel Aviv airport was greeted with a spontaneous round of applause from all the on board passengers (which is something I have not experienced since my early flights to the USA back in the early 1980’s). Jules and I joined in enthusiastically, and took it as a sign that our mission to Israel was going to be even more special than we dared hoped it might be.
At passport control, Jules and I expected to be questioned in depth about the reason for our visit and were kept at the booth by the security officer for at least twenty minutes with a growing queue forming behind us both. It wasn’t security or suspicion that was the reason for our delay, it was due to the fact that we stated the reason for our visit was to meet with Professor Chaim Brautbar at the Hadassah Medical Centre in Jerusalem and to meet members of the Bone Marrow Transplantation and Tissue Typing Departrment. Well, the response was not what I expected as the lady officer told us that her niece was in need of a transplant and that she was speaking with Hadassah to try and find a match outside of the immediate family. The family have had to extend their search beyond the borders of the Middle East and have been looking at registries such as Anthony Nolan in the UK. We told her about Love Hope Strength and our partnership with Delete Blood Cancer and she asked more and more questions and became more and more impassioned (and dare I say emotional), about her niece’s plight. It was very touching for both Jules and I and brought home to us in an instant, that this was not going to be any ordinary visit to just any other country. Emails have been exchanged and the dialogue will continue.
At the baggage pick up point, I received an email from a Love Hope Strength supporter from New York, Melissa Werger Rosen (who has made contact via James Chippendale and the firstname.lastname@example.org email that I set up, so that interested people could make contact with me while I am here in Israel). Melissa has set up a meeting for me with an important Israeli musician named Miki Gavrielov who is described as being “like an Israeli one man version of the Beatles.” I could tell that he was big over here, as his latest album was on the El Al aeroplane’s on screen audio system (Miki had heard from Melissa about the LHS Mission to Israel and wants to help).
We walked straight through customs without even soliciting a second glance from security, and outside in the main arrival lounge, Jules and I are greeted by our driver Moshe who is waiting with his makeshift ‘Mike Peters’ sign and within minutes, plans are hatched to divert our journey to Jerusalem, via the all night non-stop action city centre that is Tel Aviv, to meet Miki Gavrielov at the Nappa Club which is hosting an album launch for an emerging Israeli artist named Hami Rudner, who is being managed by Miki’s manager Yaniv Davidson.
Miki and his American wife Michelle, rendezvous with us outside the club and we head to a bar opposite aptly named ‘Mike’s Place’ to make our acquaintance. It’s a beautiful barmy evening and we sit outside and chat about life and music over a pitcher of ice cold beer. Miki is warm and engaging, and has an incredible rock and roll history that goes back to the early 1960’s when he played with his band The Churchills (they once played in Cardiff, Wales around 1972, opening for Manfred Mann’s Earth Band). Miki is keen for me to meet his manager so we head inside the venue which is full with a really cool and happening vibe. I sit down to chat with Miki’s manager, Yaniv, who just happens to be a bone marrow transplant survivor himself, having survived, from a rare form of Acute Myeloid Leukaemia. I can feel the passion for the gift of life he has received through his experiences and we plot to speak again soon, and build on the dreams of this Mission To Israel which is fast becoming a reality in my mind.
All these coincidences are obviously the work of the calling that drew me here, the hand of fate that directed my eyes to the internet piece about Dr. Amal and the Hadassah Arab Donor Registry and the work they are doing to save the lives on both sides of the divide.
From Tel Aviv, we travelled to Jerusalem passing the border of Palestine and the West Bank. After an hour, the lights of Jerusalem appear before us and we are soon at our hotel.
We are taken to a room on the very top floor that looks out over all of Jerusalem and the Old City. It is late and Jules and I are both tired, but we still have enough energy to walk the 15 minutes to the walls of the Old City and marvel at the unique surroundings of the Holy Land.
The clock on our iPhones declare that it is technically tomorrow and as it is so late / early in the day we have the streets to ourselves which feels magical. We have only been in the Holy Land for a few hours but it has already surpassed all our expectations. Who knows what tomorrow will bring….. Peace, Love, Hope and Strength
Mike Peters 2013