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Despite flight suspensions, Valley company goes ahead with Holy Land tour plans

PHOENIX -- A Gilbert tour company says that despite the recent violence in Israel and the FAA's suspension of U.S. flights to Tel Aviv, it's going ahead with plans for its upcoming tour of the Holy Land.

Magnificat Tours said its pilgrimages to Israel with Father Carlos Gomez, of Phoenix, are a life-changing, spiritual experience. The tour visits Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Jericho, the Sea of Galilee and more.

Magnificat owner Gary Appleberry said the next tour from Phoenix is set for Nov. 4.

"We fly to Washington-Dulles Airport, then to Vienna, and then to Tel Aviv," he said.

Thirteen people are signed up for the tour so far. Appleberry said that one has expressed concern because of the recent attacks but has not asked for a refund.

Appleberry's Israeli contacts tell him that so far, except for Tel Aviv, the places where the tour goes are safe.

"Jerusalem and the holy sites aren't seeing much of anything," he said. "Everything seems to be more down towards the Gaza Strip."

He said that if the tour is going to be called off, he's required to cancel it by Oct. 4 and refund the $3,900 fee. So far, he's not concerned, but the safety of those who are on the tour comes first.

"From my experience, and from what I've seen, most of these wars in Israel are short-lived," said Appleberry. "If they have a ceasefire and it calms down, we'll go. If it doesn't, we won't."

More for more information on the tours of the Holy Land, click here.

About the Author

Years with the company: I started on January 2, 2006.

Education: I was born in San Antonio, Texas, but we moved to Phoenix when I was one-year-old in 1957. I grew up here and graduated from Alhambra High School and attended Phoenix College.

Family: I live in north Phoenix with my wife Rene' and my son Devin.

Favorite food: Lots of favorite food, but our favorite restaurant is Fajitas.

Favorite spot in Arizona: The Little America Hotel in Flagstaff.

Favorite news memory: We have to go back to October 15, 1979. I was a country music air personality at KROP Radio in Brawley, California, when we had a 6.7 earthquake. Thankfully, there were no deaths and only minor injuries, but the entire community was pretty freaked out and listening to the station on their transistor radios. I would not want to go through an earthquake again, but it sure was a great night to work in radio and see how it can make a difference in people's lives.

First job: Working as a stringer for 'The Arizona Republic' at high school football games. My first real job was flipping burgers at the old Sandy's Hamburgers at 51st Avenue and Indian School Road. My first radio job was as announcer at KALJ radio in Yuma in 1977.

First concert: My Dad took me to see Jimmy Dean at the Arizona State Fairgrounds in the 1960's. It was before the Coliseum was built. The only thing I remember is Jimmy Dean singing his big hit "Big Bad John."

Favorite sports team: Phoenix Roadrunners minor league hockey. My dad took me to a game when I was in grade school, and I was hooked. I wanted to be a radio hockey play-by-play man. I used to take my cassette recorder and sit up in the rafters of the Coliseum and do play-by-play. It was great later in life to also take my son to Roadrunners games. Too bad the team just folded, I'll miss them. (Going to the Coyotes is fun, but they're not "my" team.)

Outside interests: My family and I are active in our church - Shiloh Community Church in Phoenix. Devin is a high school student at Scottsdale Christian Academy. He plays on the baseball, football, and basketball teams and sings in the choir. Obviously, we keep busy trying to go to all his events! We enjoy going to movies, sporting events, and long road trips. We like to vacation at the Beach Cottages in the Pacific Beach area of San Diego. And I love to play catch, basketball, football with my son.


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