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Report 862: Israel and Palestine 2005

By French Toast from France, Summer 2005

Trip Description: Quick jaunt to a biblical center of the Universe

Destinations: Countries - Middle East

Categories: Convent; Family/Friends; Sightseeing; Independent Travel; 2 People

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Page 1 of 4: Tel Aviv

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I am not religious, but I am curious, that is what led me to a mystical place in the middle of rocks and sand. In the center of a religious conflict that was exploding all around. “The anticipated evacuation of Israeli settlers from Gaza could lead to violence in Israel by settler groups,” said the current travel warning of the United States Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs. Condoleezza Rice came for “talks” at the same time that I was there trying to comprehend it all. A Lebanese night club was bombed (while I was in Amman) and then Sharm el Sheikh was desecrated by attacks (about 30 miles from where I was staying on the Red Sea in Aqaba) which is where missiles attempted to sink a US Military Boat just this week.

The security in Israel is tremendously strict; I am convinced it’s the safest country in the world because of that. I am more afraid to go to Los Angeles! Even though the travel warning says: “In addition, American citizens should stay away from demonstrations and generally avoid crowded public places, such as restaurants and cafes, shopping and market areas and malls, pedestrian zones, public transportation of all kinds, including buses and trains and their respective stations/terminals, and the areas around them.” After questioning, searching, stamping, investigating and finally let into the country! They insisted in stamping my passport which later in the trip I was thankful that they did.

We stayed at a friend's dusty uninhabited-for-five-years apartment in Tel Aviv: no air conditioning, a temperamental elevator, and 1970’s furniture near the Old Port. After a nice dinner at The Saloon: beers and a variety of dubious appetizers like Moroccan Cigars, meat filled rolled up delights, we headed to the big hotels to find a concierge to help us find a way to Jordan. No one wanted to help us; no one knew of a flight to Jordan, and the curled up lip and wrinkled nose looks that we got when we said that we wanted to go to Amman - like we had just asked for directions to Hell.

There are plenty of tour operators offering day trips to Petra (the ONLY reason to go to Jordan, they say) for 200 dollars each, but no info on other places to go in Jordan. Israel has become an island in a nervous, offensive world, everyone is the enemy and you are often treated that way. Finally, we found Gordan Tours at 181 Ben Yehuda St., Zvi Wendel +972-3-546-2888 ext 123 (www.gordontours.com) got us a flights for that same afternoon on Royal Jordanian Air for 121 dollars. But no return trip was available so we knew that we were in for an adventure to find our way back to our free apartment in Tel Aviv and our return flights out of there!

After a taxi driver ripped us off, (he switched my bills and claimed that I gave him a 20 not a 100, as well as over charged us by 50 Shekels (note: Each year, the Shekel's value fluctuates between 4.5 and 4.8 Shekels to the dollar), we arrived at the airport to security lines for hours. They asked a million questions again, and yes, it did look weird that we had only been in Israel for 20 hours and that we didn’t stay in a hotel, and that we had one way tickets to (gasp!) Amman. I would have questioned and searched me, too. Dean had to admit that his last name is German and I had to explain what I was doing in Lebanon four years ago, we had to explain our relationship, if we spoke Arabic or Hebrew, etc, etc.

Luckily, the Russian lady in front of us was so loco-crazy that they decided to dedicate more time to her than us.

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