Israel in January – Part 1

Travel Day

I probably wouldn’t have written this section of the trip, but there were a couple exciting parts!

Delta escort to loungeBlah blah blah, we get to the airport at MSP and fly to our layover at JFK… BUT when we exited the plane at JFK there was a Delta man in a suit holding a placard with Jason’s name on it who escorted us down the stairs on the tarmac to a Porche waiting for us!  They do this as a surprise for Diamond members occasionally – I guess that’s a perk of Jason traveling all the time!  It was actually pretty awesome because we had to go to a different terminal and the driver drove across some run ways, next to some planes, told us about the celebrities he escorts daily to the Delta Lounge and other hidden rooms!  It was super cool!

tweet

We get to the Delta Lounge and I noticed a guy who looked a little like Lance Bass from *NSYNC, the boy band from the 90’s that I was never in to…I was listening to grunge at the time.  So I noticed the guy but didn’t think much of it.  Later on, the guy and his friend were walking past me and I noticed him again, our eyes connected, maybe he even smiled? (Not sure if it was bc I kept looking in wonder or if he wanted me to recognize him), and I said to Jason “that guy kind of looked like Lance Bass from (I thought it was the Backstreet Boys so I had to look it up to confirm which boy band) *NSYNC”.  Didn’t think much of it again until Jason was curious and looked him up on Twitter and noticed he just tweeted at JFK and Delta.  AWESOME! I had a celebrity sighting and our eyes even connected!  So I tweeted at him and he liked it!!

Then a little drama on the plane before takeoff…

A couple in back of us bought isle and window seats because they said that’s what they prefer.  The poor sucker who bought the middle seat and the couple were arguing because the couple wanted him to move to a different open seat on the fight.  Ok, it was a pretty full flight – there were very few extra open seats. It was tense.  The man definitely provoked them to keep arguing with him.  We thought the man in the middle would get kicked off because he was wound up and had a few to drink. After a 30 min delay because of this the gate agent and flight attendants reopened the plane door and came back to move people around.  We thought for sure he would be removed because they reopened the door.  But then a nice guy from a few seats back offered to sit in the row with the guy if the ridiculous couple moved. All was quiet after that.  We took off for the terribly long flight.

As we were about to land I was listening to the middle seat guy tell the save-the-day guy that he is in the oil and gas industry and he travels all over the world to work on oil rigs.  He’s from Louisiana. 

Tel Aviv airportWe finally arrived in Tel Aviv and waited a long time in immigration and EXTRA long time for car rental.  That rental car lack-there-of system needs major help.  Not what a person wants to do after spending 11-12 hours on plane.

Ok, keep in mind, I’m a girl from the Midwest and I do NOT mean this disrespectfully at all… I’m just really fascinated by other cultures and religions.  But I was so amazed to see all of the different types of Jewish sects (is that the right word?) on the plane and the airport.  It’s so interesting!  There weren’t too many non-Jewish people on the plane or the Tel Aviv airport.  So fascinating!

Israel Day 1

my breakfast in IsraelWe woke up after not a full nights sleep thanks to jet lag.  That’s ok, we’re raring to go even though I have a TERRIBLE cold!  My ears are plugged with any pressure change, my nose is red and dry from blowing, my cough doesn’t stop and I can’t taste food.  Good times but it doesn’t stop me.  Check out my breakfast!  It’s an assortment of Israeli cheeses, Roquefort, gouda, drizzled with date honey, some amazing sour dough, a bowl of porridge with pumpkin seeds, almond slivers, flax, cinnamon and more of that amazing date honey, orange juice with fruit in it, and a pretty cappuccino.  (I can only say this is amazing because of this writing I can now taste and been eating this for breakfast every day.  I could eat this at home for breakfast every day.  Fantastic!  That date honey…where do I get it at home?  It reminds me of the taste of real maple syrup.  Wow!  Can you tell I love food?)

Today we go to Jerusalem.  Keep in mind it’s Friday.  The Jewish Shabbat starts at sundown and goes until an hour after sundown on Saturday.  Just keep this in mind while I tell the story of our day…

We had pre-arranged a tour guide.  If you come, I HIGHLY recommend doing this.  Not a group but a private tour guide.  It’s not much more expensive and you get a complete customized experience, they’ll even take you for snack breaks and answer questions you may not want to ask in a group and stop for potty breaks, and come to your beckon call later on when your car is locked in the parking garage due to Shabbat…more on that later.  Her name is Michal Granot and she was AWESOME!  Tour guide extraordinaire!  Israeli born, secular Jewish, guides all over the world, not PC, super knowledgable, witty, cool, multi-lingual, likes to stop for snacks and potty breaks, gets around the big groups…  She’s just awesome.  Contact her here if you need a guide:  michalgranot@yahoo.com

Jaffa gateWe met her at Jaffa gate entrance into the old city of Jerusalem and started with the Ramparts Walk overlooking the old city.  The city is broken up into 4 quarters – The Christian Quarter where various communities live together: Catholics, Orthodox, and other factions of Christianity.  The Muslim, the Jewish Quarter, and the Armenian Quarter.  There are layers upon layers of the city built upon other ancient layers.  The Ramparts Walk offered views of the various churches, mosque, temple, synagogue, buildings, and more.  Views of the new city of Jerusalem were also awesome!  King David Hotel, where dignitaries stay, the original YMCA, the first neighborhood outside of the old city gates, Mount of Olives – the oldest Jewish cemetery in the world, this is where Jewish people believe the Messiah will come from and enter Jerusalem via the Golden Gate.

We saw the stations of the cross, the markets, put a prayer in the Western Wall (wailing wall) which is separated men and women, visited the Church of the Holy Sepulcher,  had some great hummus and falafel, a fantastic freshly squeezed juice of oranges and pomegranate that Michal said would be good for my cold, and walked all over the old city.  It was a long but fun and educational day.  We toured the city for about 6-7 hours and walked back to the parking garage.

The parking garage was locked from both ends.  We were screwed.  We were in Jerusalem after sundown on Shabbat with our car locked in the garage until the next night when Shabbat ended after sundown.

We got in touch with Michal who was so nice to come down to help us with a plan.  As we were waiting there were Orthodox Jews in their Shabbat robes walking all over the place.  We were standing next to a synagogue where our car was locked and a group of Orthodox Jewish men came out.  We didn’t know proper etiquette and didn’t ask them any questions but they were so nice and helpful and started speaking to us in English asking if we needed help.  They read the sign for us and explained that the garage didn’t open until after sundown the next day, even waited for us as we called the phone number on the sign that just played music.  The one man even said “shit happens”.  He cursed! I was shocked!  Very cool guys for trying to help us on their Shabbat.

So Michal gets there and helps us come up with a plan.  We had been planning on driving to Masada, Ein Gedi, and the Dead Sea the next day – that wasn’t happening.  But she told us about Arab-run group taxis that leave every few minutes for Tel Aviv, where our hotel was, and talked us into going with a tour to Masada.  So she called and arranged the tour for us and for the tour to drop us off in Jerusalem on the way back to Tel Aviv!  How nice of her!  And then drove us to our bus stop to go back to Tel Aviv.  Well, on our way to the bus stop there was a little disturbance in the street ahead.  She said that it was groups Jewish men yelling at the drivers for driving on Shabbat and blocking the roads.  So we get close and sure enough they’re surrounding us too – including those nice men that were helping us earlier!! WTF?!

We finally get to the bus headed the hour long drive back to Tel Aviv.  What a day!  But we made it back to our hotel hoping to get our car back after sundown tomorrow.

I’ll have to write a separate post about our Masada/Dead Sea day, this is getting to be a long post.  It sure was an exciting day!

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