Email from Israel #1 15, September 2005

Tel Aviv Travel Blog

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Outside Beit Birra. If you're in Tel Aviv and want great German, Dutch, or Belgian beer...go no further.

Hi Everyone!

This is my first time to access Internet since coming to Israel....so, first I have to tell you that if you are at all worried for me, you should not be. Israel is completely wonderful!!!!

It seemed to take forever to get here though! Three flights, two of which were overnighters...I have to admit, that mostly when I was in London waiting to board the flight to Tel Aviv I thought I was crazy!

But thankfully, because of bad weather in London, our flight from JFK had to circle before landing, then the flight to Tel Aviv was delayed...so we landed in Tel Aviv one hour later than expected. This meant that we flew into the sunrise...and that was my first view of Israel.

Inside the pub Beit Birra!
..as we flew above the shore just north of Yafo (Jaffa) and southern part of Tel Aviv...and touched down. My first impression was ...."WOW!"...so beautiful, and it was surreal to actually see the Mediterranean and then the Land of Israel with my own eyes!

So, that was Sunday morning 11, Sept. As the day went on, and more volunteers arrived on later flights than mine, the Sar-El representative and soldiers from the army eventually met the group of us at the airport, and gave us a quick intro...then off we went. Our big group was split to two smaller groups. Both of our groups are up north in the general area of the Galil region. My group is luckier than the other because our base is in a very nice area...the sunsets are spectacular. My group is quite interesting. Mostly youngters.

We LOVE the warm water at Tel Aviv!
...and only half are Jewish. Guy from Seattle, guy from Chicago, guy from Minneapolis, and guy from New York--oh, also guy from Iran -Jewish. Then a Christian gal from Capetown, South Africa...and a gal from Berlin who's very interested in Judaism.

And two guys from Holland (non-Jewish), and a guy from Belgium (non-Jewish). We're quite an interesting bunch...and politically all over the board!

So, mostly on the base, we've all had different work to do....and every day we're thanked for coming here to do it. We're asked very often by the soldiers why we came, and when we tell them, they are so appreciative that people from outside Israel care.This is exactly what I hoped to accomplish by coming, if nothing else. My work has mostly been in the kitchen ---surprised????

We get up in the morning to have breakfast at 7.

This stray cat with a bad eye came up to me, and just wanted some love. He was injured, but he is in the land and he survives. This cat is a Sabra to the core!
30am. There is always a group of older people -immigrants from Russia who come to the base to have breakfast then spend their time volunteering doing something different from us after. So after breakfast, we relax a little, then attend flag-raising ceremony. Then we have a little news debriefing from our "madrichot" (counselers???)...then we start our work...until noon when we have the main meal. This lasts to 1pm...at 1pm I go to the base Rabbi (a Chabadnik)...and spend some time doing individual prayers with him, and join in the minyan (prayer quorum) if one can be assembled. Then back to work until around 3.30pm...when we can relax to 6pm when is dinner, then an evening activity.

One evening, we learned some army practices (crawling on the ground, running and diving from grenades, etc).

A beach in south Tel Aviv. Old Yafo is in the background.
...another evening we learned ranks and history of the Israeli Defense Forces. Then last evening our counselers brought out the guitar and we had sing along -they took requests from us, played them and we all sang.

Yesterday (Wednesday) we left the base "en masse" to spend the day joining up with a regular naval unit based in Haifa in the town of Kiryat Bialik with an organisation called "Latet"...this is an Israeli humanitarian org that provides aid in food etc in and out of Israel. We went there to spend the day assembling HUGE palettes of food and other supplies to be distributed throughout the northern Israel region for the high holidays next week...for people who can't afford the food.

Tel Aviv. Yes, those are our shoes on the beach.
We were all exceptionally happy to do this...then today (Thursday) we were off very early, starting right after breakfast for the weekend.

We don't have to go back until Sunday around 1.30pm....so much time off! So we took a bus to Haifa, then train to Tel Aviv...then bus to Yafo where our free Sar-El hostel is...so close to the ocean!

After dropping our stuff off, a group of us (myself, Ben (American), Bauke and Martijn (dutch), and Ruben (Belgian)...took a walk along the beach starting at edge of Yafo (near Beit Ha'Etzel)...and north to Tel Aviv. The water is so warm, and so clear....maybe the best beaches I've ever seen! At Opera Towers, we walked into town...and found a pub (Beit Birra) that specialised in (oddly) only German and Holland beers! So this group of course stopped by.

View into part of Tel Aviv from the beach. Mosques are a part of the scene in Jewish Israel. Would synagogues exist in an Arab state? History tells us the answer.
..and found the bartender to be an amazing guy...German from a town between Bonn and Koelln. So all of us had multi-lingual conversations which took on an additional dimension when a Spanish-speaking customer from Brazil came into the pub and sat next to us!

So after this, we went back to the hostel and had dinner...then Ruben, Bauke, Ben, Theresa, and I walked to the beach closest to our hostel for a moonlight swim...again, the water was warm enough even at night at 8.30 to be quite comfortable...and it's so shallow for so long away from the shore!

We returned to the hostel to get cleaned up, then walked out here to this internet cafe in Tel Aviv at Dizengoff St and King George V Street.

So at our base, there is of course no Internet access for us.

Wow, I had this shirt before I moved to Minneapolis!
..and I do not have a mobile phone here in Israel that I can use.

But things are completely wonderful...everyone is awesome! On base and out. People are very, very helpful...super friendly, and security is EVERYWHERE!

You cannot even enter a shopping mall without being checked and bags opened, unless you are accompanying soldiers who manage to parlay your way to get through without this delay. Buses are very secure...and frankly while Israel is small, it seems so large...I mean, things just seem so far away...even if they're in this country!

The food here is spectacular...even a simple apple or pear has so much flavour...but the cooked food....WOW!

And my health here is very good...no allergies! So I do not take any medication here. That is especially good because our friends at British Airways managed NOT to deliver my suit case with me to Tel Aviv on my flight.

A sobering reminder that where life goes on, life was also lost. How many other nations lose innocents simply for the right to exist?
..so I waited 3 days before I got it...and the meds were in the suitcase.

So tomorrow (Friday) our plan is to have breakfast, find the Beit Birra pub again, then enjoy the beach in the day and get some suntan...then we want to get clean, and go to the market to buy candles and challah, and to make a small Shabbat in the evening at the pub. SO, it's not exactly Orthodox, but we're trying to show some sense of intention. And our Dutch and Belgian friends are very enthusiastic about this!

The Rabbi on the base (his name is Ariye) told me that when he saw all these non-Jews from Holland and Belgium come to the base to volunteer for Israel, he KNEW that the Mashiach is surely coming soon.  "Look Stephen!  Did you see them? The Europeans. Dutch, German, Belgian. Not Jews. But all coming here to help Israel. I see this and I know that Masiach is coming soon!"

So, the rest of the time here in Yafo-Tel Aviv, the plan is to do the things that are around here...then Sunday is back to the base and back to work until Thursday. Then I am done....and I think I will go direct to Jerusalem and base there and see the city there, then make trips from there. Tel Aviv is nice...very big city, but it's just modern city on the beach...I find it kind of empty that way. The South African gal, Talani, headed today straight up to Tz'fat (where I too want to go) and already reported in to us by phone that it's so wonderful.

So, OK...have a couple more notes to send out...but I did want you to know that I got here OK, and absolutely LOVE it. I am very happy I came to here, and wish in many ways that I came sooner in life still and yet more often.

More when I can write...and I love to read your notes, so please write back.

love,

Stephen

Shalom m'Israel!

PS...I am quickly getting faster and better at reading Hebrew...and speaking it. Oh and also understanding Dutch, and speaking German. And the soldiers on the base LOVE it when I speak Japanese.

Tarek307 says:
This guys pic of the Mosques and his quote is funny- Actually buddy those mosques were there before the founding of Israel, when that area was under the ottoman empire rule & named Palestine. As for synogogues, yes there are synogogues in Egypt, and even in Iran where there is a big concentration of Irani Jews! Mid Easts problem is with Zionism not Judaism
Posted on: Aug 10, 2014
mellemel8 says:
i love israel. i was there 2005. i want to go back.
Posted on: Aug 19, 2007
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Outside Beit Birra. If youre in T…
Outside Beit Birra. If you're in …
Inside the pub Beit Birra!
Inside the pub Beit Birra!
We LOVE the warm water at Tel Aviv!
We LOVE the warm water at Tel Aviv!
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This stray cat with a bad eye cam…
A beach in south Tel Aviv. Old Yaf…
A beach in south Tel Aviv. Old Ya…
Tel Aviv. Yes, those are our shoes…
Tel Aviv. Yes, those are our shoe…
View into part of Tel Aviv from th…
View into part of Tel Aviv from t…
Wow, I had this shirt before I mov…
Wow, I had this shirt before I mo…
A sobering reminder that where lif…
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Tel Aviv
photo by: JulieFrenchi