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Gingerichs celebrated 50th with trip to Israel

By Staff | Feb 11, 2011

Rural Wolford residents Ernest and Joy Gingerich have had some adventures during their 50 years of marriage, but they never expected to be in Cairo, Egypt when the country erupted in government protest the last week of January.

The Gingerichs decided to do something big for their 50th Wedding Anniversary and take a trip to Israel. They both enjoy traveling and have been to Hawaii, Alaska and the Bahamas, as well.

They connected with a group travel service named Educational Opportunities and booked a tour to Israel. Later, they found out they could add Cairo, Egypt to their journey.

“I wanted to see the pyramids as long as we were going to be so close,” said Joy.

It turned out to be a treacherous decision, but they made it through.

“Israel is a beautiful country,” said Joy. “We spent 10 days there. We had A-1 service, food, and guide. It was wonderful!”

They walked places where Jesus is said to have wallked and saw the place where He died and was entombed. They went to Bethlehem where Jesus was born.

Soon it was time to fly to Cairo. They knew there was unrest in Cairo but had been told that these uprisings occur and then die down. This was not to be the case for them.

“When we came into Cairo, there were huge groups of soldiers,” said Ernest.

In fact, when they left the Cairo airport, the bus had an armed security guard to accompany them. At first, the Gingerichs didn’t realize the danger they were in.

“We were pretty naive,” grinned Ernest.

“They told us to take the back roads,” explained Joy. “We had to cross four bridges and that’s where they were. I was a little nervous.”

The Gingerichs trusted their guide to know what to do.

“Some people in the streets waved to us to try and stop us,” said Joy.

“I was looking out the window and saw a guy hurl a bottle which hit the window of the bus,” said Ernest. “Another bottle broke the window on the bus and some travelers received minor cuts from the broken glass.”

The tour group was taken to the Swiss Inn and at first were in the lobby, but were later moved to the dining room for more safety, where they eventually slept a bit. Curtains were pulled. The hotel paid for guards to guard the hotel.

“You didn’t know what was going to happen,” said Ernest. “We heard gunshots at night and rock throwing.

“We weren’t suppose to look out the windows, but I did,” said Ernest. “I saw people throwing rocks and then they would dance with glee.”

When it was time for the tour group to move on, they were told to sit on the floor of the bus and keep their heads down. Joy was sitting where she could see through the front window. “We saw burned out cars along the way.”

“We were warned to not look at the people,” said Ernest.

The tour guide tried to call the American Embassy, but there was no answer. They made arrangements to get the group out of Cairo. They chose to fly them to Rome for the rest of the vacation.

Flights to and from the country were being delayed. The Gingerichs spent two days in a very crowded Cairo Airport before they could finally leave for Rome.

“People crammed into the airport and some were rude and shoved their way in,” described Joy. These North Dakotans were accustomed to being polite, but their guard told them they needed to hurry and they had to get through in whatever way could. Then they got on the plane and it was delayed on the tarmac for 2 1/2 hours.

“It drove me crazy,” said Joy.

With an estimated 55,000 Americans in Egypt, according to what the Gingerichs were told, and flights being limited, it was not an easy time for tourists.

“They were only sending out one plane a day,” said Joy. “There are probably still people waiting to get out.”

The Gingerichs arrived home on Friday, Feb. 4, finally safe and sound.

The trip wasn’t all dangerous. They had ten days of enjoying the Israeli people and their culture. They did a lot of walking everywhere.

“Israel is very clean,” said Joy. And they have beautiful children.”

When asked what were the highlights of the trip, Ernest thought for a minute and then said, ” the Mount of Olives, you could see Jerusalem from there.”

Joy mentioned several highlights including Bethlehem, the Colloseum, Masada where King Herod had a sanctuary. When they got to Rome on their return journey, she was amazed at the paintings of Michelangelo.

“Michelangelo’s painting blew me away,” she said.

Even though they are not Catholic they said, the Assembly of God Church members enjoyed the Vatican.

As they were waiting for the last leg of the journey home, they ended up spending some unscheduled time in New York City because of plane delays again. They took advantage of their time and took a cab to various sites they wanted to see.

The Gingerichs certainly had an eventful and unusual celebration of their 50 years together. This farm couple and parents of three grown children and grandparents to five, said that the word divorce has never been a part of their vocabulary. They admit to having their ups and downs in the marriage but it is clear that they genuinely like each other and are respectful of each other.

Although this special trip had some moments of challenge, they still enjoy traveling together. So who knows where they will show up next.

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