(very) warm greetings from israel

My daughter, mom and I embarked on a grand adventure last Friday.  We’re spending the next 13 days in Israel.  The motivation for the trip  was to join some friends of ours in celebrating their childrens’ bar/bat mitzvahs.  The fact of the matter is that we’re using this as an excuse to visit a part of the world my daughter and I have never seen before.  We’ve been anticipating this trip for a while now.

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We set out from Seattle during the mid-morning.  We flew into Atlanta, where we had a four hour layover, before heading to Tel Aviv.  Flying with kk was interesting.  This was by far the longest flight she’d endured.  There was plenty to do (she had books, cards, and a complete in-seat entertainment system at her disposal.  The hardest part was figuring out how to sleep while nestled into an economy seat for a total of about 16 hours.  The other trick was trying to sleep so that we could end up on the right clock for our destination.  Both of these things are easier said than done.

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We landed on Saturday evening just before 6 PM.  Getting out of the airport was pretty easy, and we were settled into our bite-sized room at a noted Feng Shui hotel in Tel Aviv by 8.  The goal for the evening was to take in some of the beach and to find some good dinner.  We walked up the beach about a half mile, enjoying the sunset over the Mediterranean.  The dinner was okay – pretty big portions with prices to match.  By 10:30 or so, we were all very wiped out, and ready to sleep.

The next morning started early.  By 5:30, I was wide awake – just waiting for enough light to do a run along the water.  It was already pretty hot and humid when I set out – fortunately I didn’t have lofty goals for either distance or speed.  I ran along the busy boardwalk area, seeing lots of people up for early morning runs, bike rides, swims, or walks.  By the time I’d clicked off just over five miles, I was done, and very ready for the nice breakfast we enjoyed at our hotel.  They even brought out a specially prepared eggs for me, as well as some delicious espresso for mom and I.  A great way to start the day.

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We settled on taking the bus to Jerusalem.  This would provide the best combination of timeliness and cost-efficiency.  There was a small bit of excitement in finding the right bus, but the trip was quiet and comfortable.  It was amazing watching the terrain change to include bunches of hills, and really something taking in the scale of the city as we arrived.

After we arrived in Jerusalem on Sunday, we had several challenges.  I’d plotted a course to walk over to a hummus plate that was purportedly great.  We found after looking for it for a while that it was closed.  Then we flagged a cab to drive us over to the Israel Museum, only to have the driver take off while my mom was still climbing into the car.  Fortunately she was okay – very annoyed – but okay.  So far, our luck with cabs has not been so good.  More on that later.

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Seeing the collection in the museum was really something.  The model of the city is something to see, and I am still blown away at seeing The Dead Sea Scrolls.  The impact of seeing direct evidence of such significant pieces of history and culture is amazing.  The museum also has some nice Picasso, Van Gogh, and Gauguin pieces – veritable icing on the cake.

Returning from the museum brought a couple more cab adventures.  We got into an argument with our driver about the fare.  We’d not been clear about requiring him to actually turn his meter on, and he got really ticked off when we called him on it.  So ticked in fact that he drove back to the museum – accusing me of reneging on a ‘deal’ we’d apparently struck.  Oddly, he then agreed to drive us with the meter on.  Not surprisingly, it was about half of what he’d originally quoted us.  As we drove, he pitched taking us down to the Dead Sea for a special price.  Clearly this guy was a businessman at heart, despite his efforts at theatrics about money – literally going from angry to friendly again within the space of about a minute. 

As we reached the hotel, I got out and paid him, failing to notice that I’d dropped my wallet in the cab when climbing out.  Panicked after my mom noticed it sitting on the seat as he drove away, I ran into the hotel and asked for their help (not much apparently forthcoming).  The driver then returned with the wallet again, and asked me what I would give him as a reward for returning it – suggesting that the 50 NIS bill I had in there would be good.  This was interesting.  Obviously it was worth more than this to me (approximately $13).  On the other hand I had trouble getting over the way he’d been about money with me.  I ended up just thanking him for his honesty – which really ticked him off again.  Mixed feelings about that (don’t want to discourage him from being honest), but it just seemed more like the guy was laying guilt on just to get some money.

Planning the trip has been interesting.  Striking the balance between things that we’re all interested in is not always easy.  And it’s important to factor in the heat and to limit the amount of walking required, in order to keep things doable.  So far the results there have not been great on my part, but I’m hoping things will get a bit better.  Tomorrow we tour the old city, which will involve lots of walk in the heat of the day.  We’ll see how it goes.

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