Visiting Israel was never on 78-year-old Evelyn Sellers’ “bucket list.” But when she heard that her Bucks County church was running a mission to Israel, she “really felt the need to go there.”
But then something truly unexpected occurred. Seller’s 104-year-old mother, Eleanor Hall insisted that she go as well.
On April 3, after being cleared by her doctor, Hall, her daughter and two of her granddaughters are set to join a 14-person contingent from the Adissvile Reformed Church in Richboro on a 10-day, Christian Zionist mission to Israel.
Sellers said she wants to “walk in the steps that Jesus took.We are spiritual people, but this is only going to enhance our spirituality. These are the names of the places we have read about and now we are actually going to see them.”
Hall, who will turn 105 on May 9 and has a little trouble hearing but speaks in a strong voice, said she’s looking forward to “everything. I can’t name one thing alone.”
On March 29, the mother-daughter duo attended a sendoff reception at the Center City offices of the Israeli Consulate. Five members of the group were there, including the church’s religious leader, the Rev. Doug Dwyer, who is also making his first visit to the Jewish state. (His wife of 27 years, Jane, has been there three times and insisted that he go.)
The group plans to tour many religious and cultural sites of importance to both Christians and Jews. Dwyer noted that he’s especially looking forward to visiting the nature preserve of Ein Gedi on the shores of the Dead Sea, where, according to the first book of Samuel, David sought refuge from King Saul.
“Frankly, I’m looking forward to some of the more natural settings, even more than a lot of the shrines. When you see the actual topography, you see the mountains and the hills” that were described in the Bible,” he said.
In a short ceremony, Yaron Sideman, Israel’s consul general in the region, presented Hall with a coffee table book about Christian sites in the Holy Land. Sideman, a trained classical musician, recalled once that, before he heard a particular piece by Johann Sebastian Bach for the first time, his teacher expressed envy because he was about to experience the genius and power of the music for the first time.
“Eleanor, I believe you are about to undergo that same kind of transformative experience in your first visit to Israel,” Sideman said. “I wish upon myself, when I am your age, to undergo a life- forming experience, as you are about to. I also wish, as I looked at your itinerary — it is so demanding — I wish that not when I’m your age but today, that I’ll be able to carry through such an intense and demanding program.”
Speaking briefly, Hall, a Bronx native, talked about how she and her pastor had bonded over their mutual love of the New York Yankees — not the most popular team in Phillies-crazy Philadelphia. She said that when this trip is done, she hopes to make a trip to visit a shrine a little closer to home — the new Yankees Stadium.