Tuesday, June 18, 2013
Words cannot express how delightful I found Israel to be.
I don't know what I expected, but it wasn't the warm, friendly, and delightful place I visited for two weeks in April. For some reason this caught me completely by surprise. Perhaps I was expecting miles of desert, bearded shepherds with white head covers trekking through the sand, and camels plodding mournfully toward a mirage of water. Instead I found Tel Aviv wonderfully modern, bright, and clean. The parts of Jerusalem that I visited sparkled brightly in the sun and beckoned visitors. The people I met were, without exception, exceptionally charming and hospitable. I left feeling I had made life-long friends.
I stayed in a nice apartment and drove a cute little rental car to work. Driving through the Tel Aviv metro area was a bit daunting to me. Traffic moves very quickly and there are many more motorcycles and scooters than in the US. The motorcyclists don't follow the same traffic laws as the cars and they drive on the shoulders of the road (including on the freeway) and down the middle of the dotted lines that separate lanes of traffic. They speed much faster than the cars and weave through the traffic. I was constantly afraid of changing lanes and hitting a cyclist. Fortunately I made it through my trip with no accidents! The road signs were all in three languages: Hebrew, Arabic, and English; for the most part I didn't have much trouble finding my way around other than my GPS couldn't find the street that my office was on. Luckily I had a backup - my cell phone and Google maps. I did get a little scared a few times but I survived!
Upon my arrival, I worked for two days. I was there to do IT business and there was a lot to be done. Then had a weekend for sight-seeing. I booked a tour and visited Jerusalem and Bethlehem the first day. The second day the tour took me to Masada and the Dead Sea, where I swam with my newly made friends (also tourists on the tour bus) and rubbed Dead Sea mud all over my body.
Another week of work (lots of work) and another weekend of sightseeing followed. I visited Jerusalem once again to see Yad Vashem, the World Center for Holocaust Research, Documentation, Education and Commemoration. It was an incredible place to experience. Afterwards I drove back to Tel Aviv and wandered through the local street market and an art fair. The following day I visited another street market, ate delightful Arab food, and watched Israeli TV back in my apartment while sipping dry Israeli wine.
One more day of work and I headed home.
I certainly missed Ryan. It was strange to be so far away and 9 hours ahead of him. We talked daily and I shared every detail of my trip with him. And yet it was nice to be on my own and experience something unique only with myself. Sometimes I caught myself in a little hug because I was so delighted with everything that I was seeing and doing!
I took a lot of photos. I'll share some pictures and stories with you in following posts. There is too much to bombard you with in one blog entry. Stay tuned!