Walking into Israel was, in a way, walking from Kansas into Oz. Gone was the bad internet, livestock sharing bus space with us, and people yelling at you everywhere you went because you are the western tourist. In place of these things was flat-screen TV’s, cans of Dr. Pepper, Falafel served WITH hummus rather than plain, and functioning highways. The first step to entering Oz however, is making your way through the twister…in our case that would be questioning about why we would go to a country like Sudan.
Mostly the questions were innocent enough but they did get annoying:
Agent: Why did you go to Sudan?
Me: It was in between Egypt and Ethiopia, it was just a transit visa to get across.
Agent: Why did you stay there 10 days?
Me: Well there is ferry that goes from Sudan to Egypt, that is the only border crossing, and it only goes once a week.
Agent: Oh, OK. Don’t you have a cell phone number?
Me: I had a SIM card in Egypt but it doesn’t work here, you can keep the SIM as a souvenir of having met me if you’d like
Agent: No, I just need the number so that I can have Mossad trace it and see if your a terrorist.
Me: I don’t know the number, we just use it to call taxi’s. You’re welcome to keep it though.
Agent: That will be a problem because you were in Sudan and now you don’t know the number to this random SIM card that you’ve handed over to me and don’t care about and have only had for two weeks.
Me: Any way we can speed this up for a fellow Jew?
Agent: How do I know you’re Jewish?
Me: I can drop my pants and you can see for yourself….
And so it went for three hours before the start of Shabbat, allowing us to catch the last bus north with space on it with only 30 minutes to spare. We arrived to Tel Aviv about one hour before sundown.
The most surprising thing to us about traveling in Israel was just how expensive it was. Our budget doesn’t quite show this expense because we stayed with friends the entire time, but a can or bottle of soda usually cost about $2. Shwarma cost about 3-5 times as much as it did in Egypt and falafel even more. There is no doubt in our minds that Israel is the most expensive country we have been to on this entire trip. It really felt like we were back in the US, save of course for the Hebrew all over the place.
So what did we do in Israel? We spent our time relaxing, going to the beach, avoiding most of the tourist scene, buying jeans (first pair to travel with us on this entire trip) and tons of dead sea beauty products. We relaxed, recharged and just had a nice time catching up with friends.
For those of you who might realize, correctly, that we were actually in Israel for this whole Gaza Flotilla thing, let me tell you what we saw while we were in Tel Aviv….nothing. Everyone was talking about it, many half expected to be in a new war within a week, but we witnessed no riots or protests of any kind during our stay in Tel Aviv. Opinions were diverse and those critical of the operation, like 90% of the rest of the world, were mostly critical of how the military botched a very simple job. The news differed only slightly from foreign accounts in its coverage, not forgetting to remind people of Egypt’s complacency in the matter…a subject many foreign news outlets seemed not to notice.