Saturday, April 2, 2011

Travel post #4 - Israel

Leaving Ethiopia was incredibly hard. I was excited to see my friend Susan and her life in Israel but I definitely left a part of me at that transition house. I'm so glad I made the extra stop on the trip, it was another amazing experience!

Here's a satellite view of the places we went...
The flight left at 11pm and arrived in Tel Aviv at 2:40am. Passport control had quite a few questions for me and I realized how unprepared I was. Seems like it was important to have Susan's address and I didn't. I guess it was fine in the end and she let me through. Susan and Yoni there to pick me up (thanks guys!) and we headed to Susan's apartment to sleep for a few hours. Her apartment is pretty small and houses Susan and her five dogs. Yes, five. All of them very cute and very much their 8 month age.
No, they don't normally get to be up on the furniture! Once we had a chance to sleep a bit, we took off and explored the promenade nearby. We rode down to Jaffa and dipped our feet in the Mediterranean Sea. We had shwarma for dinner, yum!
The next morning we walked to the shuk, which is the outdoor market. After having some pastries we found a restaurant with outside seating and shared some shakshouka, yum! We needed a good breakfast in us because we headed to Jerusalem by bus for an afternoon of "extreme urban tourism" which consists of taking in as many sights as possible in a short time. The bus ride was less than an hour and then we wandered aimlessly for a bit. We found a great guide (or rather he found us) and it was well worth it!

The old city was amazing (I know I keep using that word but it really was). So many of those places we learned about in bible classes came to life. The steps that Jesus walked to his trial with Pontius Pilate...
And the stone on which he was cruicified...
Our guide took us on the Jewish/Christian tour so we got to see important places for both faiths. Certainly we would not have been able to do it on our own. Not in a half a day, that's for sure! The bus ride home took us through the very strictest orthodox section of town, it was very interesting (but not so much for taking pictures, plus it was dark).

The next morning we walked down to the art fair nearby. I would totally be broke if I lived there, I wanted to buy everything! Sadly, the suitcases were full already. Now I have to figure out how to get some of the stuff I should have bought shipped over here. hmm. I did find a stained glass sun for my wall of suns...
Susan lives in the textile district and there were many stores with the coolest fabric, I wanted to buy a lot of that too! We bought some for Susan's bench to re-cover and we planned to make pillows for each of us with another great buy. After shopping, we met up with Yoni and his sister for a drive north. First stop was a look at a house Susan has since signed the lease to rent. A whole house! With a separate entrance for her business. A yard for the dogs! It was just perfect, I'm so happy for her! We left there and stopped for lunch at an herb farm not too far away. (nothing is really that far away in a small country, right) Across the valley, the city of Nazareth...
After lunch, a stop for some wildflower viewing. It didn't seem like much to a midwesterner like me but taking into account the heat and dry climate of Israel it was pretty rare to see there.

We were losing the light and took off for our last stop, the sea of Galilee. It was dark when we got there so we didn't see much but I did put my hand in the water because I couldn't go all the way there and not.
We drove home and spent a few hours re-covering the bench. The pillows didn't happen but somehow the fabric sneaked into my suitcase :-) The taxi picked me up at 2:15am for a 5:30am flight to Amsterdam. I thought that was plenty of time but it turns out that the security was quite a trip in itself.

First, you get in one line. Security comes through the line while you are waiting to ask all the standard questions and review your passport and boarding pass. At the end of that line, you have your checked bags x-rayed. Then you get in another line. There, everyone gets their checked bags unpacked and wanded (not sure why, and they weren't sharing). Then you repack (grr) and get in another line. That line gets your bags checked and your ticket issued. Then, another line for passport control. More questions and a review of your ticket and passport. Yet another line, this time the metal detector for you and your carryon bag x-rayed. Then you move to the end of that line and have your carryon unpacked, wanded and re-x-rayed. (and not just me, everyone). Once done there, you go to the gate, go through another xray and metal detector then you're on the plane. The whole time, with your shoes on. At least we had that going for us!

All in all it took two hours. And that is with the gate agents pulling the Amsterdam passengers out and moving us to the front of each line. I can only imagine how long it would have taken if they hadn't done that! I was ready to sleep on the plane and got in a few good hours. A 6 hour layover in Amsterdam went quickly. I tried to get a window seat not over the wing. The gate agent assured me it was nowhere near the wing (I knew better. grr.) and indeed I was smack over the center. Hard to get a picture of my house from the plane if I'm over the wing! Oh well, next trip I guess.

I took a taxi home and Riley was there to greet me, yea! The couch felt so good and so did a nice long shower. So that's how to see Israel in three days. I missed out on a lot, I know. But three days is better than no days! I took a bunch more pictures which you can see here. I'm a little fried but full of memories that I'll treasure forever.

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