first report from Israel

the view outside my window

As I write this, it’s 8:20 PM on Tuesday October 9. I’m in my hotel room in Tel Aviv, and am spending a much needed quiet evening at “home” tonight. I just got to my room after having supper. My original goal was to write something of a daily travel journal, but this is my 4th night in Israel now and so much has happened I doubt if I can catch up. So what should I do? Just give you the highlights, or a quick rundown of the whole trip?

The flights to get here went well. No delays, and I didn’t have to sit next a 400 pound gentleman from Alabama. Unfortunately, despite all my best efforts I slept very poorly on the red-eye flight between Atlanta and Tel Aviv. I did all the things they say to do: got exercise earlier that day, totally avoided caffeine and alcohol the day of my flight, wore a “sleep mask” over my eyes, used a special neck pillow, sat in the window seat, had a special back support to make the seat more comfortable, and took a prescription sleep aid I got from my doctor. After all that, I still think I only slept for about 90 minutes. Oh well, I’ve always had problems sleeping sitting up, and I guess this proves that even when I take all the best advice, I still can’t do it.

Driving in the Middle East has been an interesting experience. Here, all signals, lights, and lane markings are considered optional. It’s not at all uncommon for a car to drive perfectly centered on a line, taking two lanes simultaneously if there’s room. Then, when there’s not, they often put 2 cars into a single lane. Turning right on a red light is illegal, as I found out after I did it once. And motorcycles appear to be exempt not only from traffic laws but from any sense of logic. When traffic is traveling in direction X, motorcycles will drive on the line between cars, on the shoulders, and in both directions – X and Y – as they see fit.

The food has been outstanding. Every meal I’ve eaten has been very tasty. We’ve had a traditional Shabbat buffet, a Libyan feast of a dozen salads and lamb chops, a Turkish feast, highly authentic “working man’s” falafels, and Israeli-American fusion cuisine. We were out until about 11:30 PM (or what the locals would call 23:30) last night eating and drinking. I ate so much I couldn’t sleep. So tonight I decided I needed a light meal at the hotel restaurant.

Other things that may interest you:

  • one of my coworkers came to work today in his army fatigues, since he’s doing his regular military duty tomorrow
  • as predicted, I’ve seen several hot babes carrying M-16s on the streets
  • it’s very common here for employees to have company cars as a benefit – in fact, you just have to ask for one and you get one as part of your compensation package
  • I have only encountered one person who didn’t speak English – this was at the Libyan restaurant; when one of our hosts asked her if she had an English-language menu she told him that we could just come into the kitchen and point at whatever we wanted to eat
  • I don’t feel like writing all the examples, but customer service here is a quantum leap ahead of anywhere I’ve visited in the US – from restaurant wait staff to taxi cab drivers to the security guard at the front door
  • within 200 meters from my hotel window I can see the beach on the Mediterranean and an Islamic mosque (see photo above)
  • unfortunately, within 5 km, there’s also a McDonalds, a Burger King, and a KFC
  • however, I’m pleased to announce there are no Starbucks in the entire “state” of Israel – they opened a few stores here and response was so poor they went out of business; Israelis thought it was stupid to pay $5 for a bad cup of coffee, and they don’t understand why Americans stand it
  • my coworkers can’t understand how a state in the US can have a law prohibiting sex toys – “Isn’t that a violation of Freedom of Speech?”

1 comment

  1. Funny, it looks like more than 200 meters.

    I got locked out of the house today–the consequence of having a new door with two working locks. Ken helped me get in, but now we have two screens in need of replacement.

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