By Hilary Bentman / Phillybuurbs.com
Eleanor Hall calls her recent trip to Israel a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Hall just didn’t expect it would happen so late in her life.
“Better late than never,” says the Warwick (PA) resident.
On the cusp of her 105th birthday, Hall spent 10 days in the Holy Land last month on a journey people half her age would find challenging.
But Hall, a feisty former New Yorker, was up for anything, including traversing the tunnels beneath Jerusalem’s Western Wall, getting baptized by the Jordan River and climbing the ancient fortification of Masada (with the assistance of a cable car).
“I wanted to see where Jesus lived and walked. The time came when I knew I was going to do it, no two ways about it,” said Hall, who marked her 105th birthday May 9. “It was wonderful. Achievement accomplished.”
Hall’s pilgrimage to Israel was part of a trip organized by Addisville Reformed Church in Richboro. Fourteen people made the journey, including church pastor Doug Dwyer, Hall’s daughter, Evelyn Sellers, and two of Hall’s grandchildren.
Hall received the royal treatment, beginning with a visit to the Israeli consulate in Philadelphia before the trip. On the plane, the centenarian was serenaded with “Happy Birthday.” And in Israel, people were so enthralled by her longevity that they stopped to take photos with her.
“Mom was a star there. Word got out and people wanted to touch her so the good genes would rub off,” said Sellers, 77.
Over the course of 10 days, the trip took Hall and the others from Tel Aviv north to the Sea of Galilee, then south to the Dead Sea, with stops in Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
For Hall, the highlight was visiting the Garden of Gethsemane where the New Testament says Jesus prayed to God to “Let this cup pass from me.”
“I just wanted to stand in that spot,” said Hall.
At 105, Hall is still going strong. She says there’s no secret to her longevity, though she does put great stock in the power of faith and good health. “Take each day as it comes,” she said. “And take a walk every day.”
So what’s next for Hall? A die-hard Yankees fan, Hall — who has been alive for all 27 of the team’s World Series titles — hopes to visit the new Yankee Stadium, which opened in 2009. Hall and her late husband, Charles, were frequent attendees at the old ballpark, and she remembers a time when they paid just a few quarters for a ticket.
In honor of her birthday, Hall received a very special phone call from Yankees’ manager Joe Girardi wishing her well.