Trip to Israel

Trip: This vacation came quite naturally as an extension of a business trip. Flight tickets dated almost a week ahead of my meetings were ordered and the trip was on! Planning commenced. Couple pitfalls (including a root canal, a credit card necessary for car rental sent to the wrong address halfway across the country, Sabbath in the middle of my trip,…) later…

…I was in Tel Aviv. The board control lady was especially thorough answering questions about my distant family members – which she knew more about than myself :). Barely making it through as I wasn’t quite able to say where I will be for the first five days – because I didn’t really know – I got to the rental agency to pick up my awesome… metallic pink tiny car with huge headlights – in the words of my esteemed colleague “the most gay car ever made” :)

Haifa: Already fairly late I set off to Haifa, where I had my first couch-surfing hosts ready to receive me – well at least I hoped. My hosts were awesome! The whole troop Haggai/Shmuela/Ziggy received me with open arms despite the fact that I arrived later than expected. They even had a lovely food ready for me, which I had to refuse as the half finished root canal surgery made even drinking an exercise in pain. We went for a walk and an awesome couch was made available to me. Plus I had the best sleeping buddy… Ziggy :). Next morning I took Ziggy for a walk, and Shmuela made sure I didn’t get lost in Haifa and was the best tour guide I could have asked for, thank you, guys! With Haifa experienced both visually and through the first of many Hummus experiences to come I was off towards the…

…See of Galilee aka the Biblical Kinneret. I met my second host a disillusioned and slightly rebellious guy (named Haner) fresh out of the army. Took a quick tour through a national park overlooking the Sea of Galilee and drove us back to his place. Upon my inquiry if there is a place I could go for a swim I was directed to a near river… (looked it up in my GPS and was off to have a swim in a local tiny muddy… Jordan river :), while it wasn’t a surprise per se, it takes a while to get used to the omnipresent reminders of the Biblical history/location of this country.)

Dead Sea: Just arriving to the area of Dead Sea was an experience that took my breath away. Literally – because I had to turn off my AC when going uphill to have any shot at maintaining speed uphill :) and more so metaphorically – because I was driving through the very area over which so many battles have been fought for. A desolate place with burned out tank and trenches here and there… Couple checkpoints and Kibbutz gate guard later I was on the look out for my next host. Barechested hippie (an awesome guy called Gili) with two half-naked ladies on his jeep was about as far from what I expected as it could get :) Awesome guy unphased by my pink car :). Showed me a good place to spend the night inside the Kibbutz and also encouraged me to go behind their barb wire fence and an ominous “no trespass, mines” sign full of bullet holes… :) Which led me to one of the best experiences of all my travels… a pristine pond retreating into a cave behind a tiny waterfall… Words fail me and picture doesn’t do it justice…

Jerusalem: After an early morning dash I arrived to Jerusalem. Found a place to park my car (“God thank you” for the parking meters whose function is suspended during Sabbath – being modern devices and all :)) and slowly headed towards the Old city. Walking the empty/deserted closed tiny streets of the Old Jerusalem was a surreal experience. Fortunately got through the metal detector and received mandatory Yarmulke/Kippah on my way to the paper filled Wailing Wall/Kotel. Later I joined a group of young tourists on a walk through a part of Jerusalem. Got screamed at for being outside on Sabbath :) and after yet another Hummus went for another quick walk through the old city now joined by an American Jewish girl and a Muslim girl (No “So there is a Jew a Muslim and Atheist walking together through the Old city of Jerusalem…” is not start of rather insensitive joke, but my trip… :)). The three experiences that stand out are… Our Muslim girl being pulled away from our group by Muslim merchants telling her not to associate with us :), our Jewish girl being allowed into the Church of the Holy Sepulchre only after being vouched for by our Muslim girl and above all the tiny streets absolutely packed by merchants and people – therefore disproving my initial thought that deserted streets were due to the Sabbath time instead of the otherwise rational thought that no-one in their right mind would wake up at seven – which I totally understand. I spent the night with a lovely couch-surfer host Hamutal who took me to a hidden gem of a bar serving only the best of beers – Czech Kozel :) and who looked at me disapprovingly when I ordered local beer instead :).

Tel Aviv: And thats it :). Well not really. What followed is work meetings throughout the day and unrestricted and unhinged drinking and shenanigans best left untold/unwritten :). It was an awesome experience! Jerusalem itself in all of its colors and spiritual/natural/historical wonders… and wow what a blast it was to couch-surf through the trip. Places I saw, tales I’ve heard all something any hotel could hardly ever offer. If you would indulge me I would suggest going to Israel as ideologically free as possible… The “meeting/clash” of cultures is about the most interesting thing about the whole Israel experience, but should you follow a preconceived notion/ideology it will still be a very nice and new experience :). And also having your mind too open leaves you at the risk of your brain falling out (not my quote unfortunately :)) so be careful either way :)