Email from Israel #1 15, September 2005
Tel Aviv Travel Blog› entry 1 of 13 › view all entries
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.
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.
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.
One evening, we learned some army practices (crawling on the ground, running and diving from grenades, etc).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.