Location: Random forest outside Berlin Airport
Date and Time: Dilemma. Is it 10:13 am or 9:13 am? I guess 9:13 am.
Reason for Visit: Connection from Tel Aviv, Israel to Goteborg, Sweden.
Present Activity: Rabbit observation. There is a little brown rabbit that hopped out from under a car and began to clean her paws. It is probably the cutest thing I’ve ever seen.
1. Streets are clean.
2. There are trees.
3. There is grass.
4. Everyone’s car is from the past two decades.
5. It is about 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
6. No sandstorms.
7. Everyone looks like me.
8. Everyone is smiling!
Welcome to a “developed” country. Oh my goodness.
While I’m waiting for this flight, let me reflect on my last journey: Israel.
Israel was an illuminating experience. In six days I visited three different areas, the Palestinian camps, the holy city, Jerusalem, and Tel Aviv. Going from nothing to super-metropolitan city in short-shorts and banana-hammocks is a culture shock I really did not expect to find. Not to mention Jerusalem, the city I figured was going to be full of religious people humming versus from the Bible and the Quran, was in fact just a tourist trap.
|UN resolution sign in front of the camp|
I can’t elaborate too much about the location of the camp, though it was in Bethlehem, and my favorite memory of this trip was blasting Justin Beiber in the beat-up car of a Palestinian friend through the streets of Bethlehem. Otherwise the camps are exactly what you expect them to be, constantly in construction, bare minimum provisions, controlled by the Israelis and the supplied by the UN (speaking of which, I saw a lot of UN cars zooming around while I was there…). Though the people consider it a jail, they are generally more laid back in some areas of interaction—like with women. They are so oppressed that they need to give “their own people” (the ones in the same situation) some slack, especially in the Muslim world. Well, that’s my opinion anyway.
|Inside one of the houses, where I slept|
Jerusalem was my first experience couchsurfing, which was incredibly positive. I dropped my stuff with some Israeli officers in training for a few hours while I toured the Old City (very very very touristic, though I did touch where Jesus was born and died. I saw the Dome of the Rock, went to the Western Wall, and fought off yet another Arab marriage). After I got into the center of Jerusalem, its really quite an interesting mix of people. The vast majority there are Europeans or liberal, yet religious Israelis, with this interesting mix of Israeli-Arab culture, where the Arab culture comes through when you see the touristic items, tea, and food. Couchsurfing was great, the folk I stayed with graciously accepted me without question and fed me, walked around Jerusalem with me, and helped carry my bags to the bus station.
|Where Jesus died|
|Western Wall notes|
Tel Aviv. Ohhhh Tel Aviv.
This part of the trip was particularly interesting. I stayed with a friend I met in Aqaba, who at the time was with his girlfriend (at this point his girlfriend was in the States, interesting timing, isn’t it?). In any case, it was a bit of a struggle in the home front, especially because the first night I arrived we went for a night time dip and all our stuff was stolen. Thankfully my passport and over-clothes were brought back, though they stole 600 shekels from me, which was frustrating to say the least. Not only that, but the night after, I was hanging out with two Israelis and one Russian girl I met on a tour, and one of the Israeli’s had his phone and money stolen! So, lest I say, I don’t trust the Israeli beach.
|Tel Aviv on the few rocks on the beach|
Though, Tel Aviv is great. Losing the money forced me to live off 100 shekels for the next 3 days (by the way, that’s about 30 USD) which meant I checked out a lot of the city, had a lot of conversations, and had to resist a lot of cute pretty and cheap dresses I couldn’t afford. Though the stolen money made me lose a little bit of hope in humanity, it was restored by the fact that there were still so many wonderful people I met. Once I was looking for money and I suppose I took too long and a man behind me just said, you must not have it, I will buy you your sandwich, because I am a nice guy. Another instance I went to the bathroom and a man gave me a rose. Another time I went to the bathroom, was supposed to pay a shekel, but didn’t have any on me and couldn’t communicate it in Hebrew. This was apparently very endearing to the old man, who motioned for me to wait, handed me a lemon, and kissed me forehead.
The last instance was that the Israelis and Sasha (Russian girl), the folk I was hanging with on the beach, didn’t like the sound of the guy I was staying with, and so we all just sat on the beach telling stories until 4am instead of me going home. We attempted to sleep for a bit but surrendered to how cold it was without proper blankets. Then the next morning we all got up and went to his sister’s house where we all took turns showering the sand off us and making tea and sandwiches.
So, people are good. Tel Aviv is like Europe (I assume, I‘ve never been), and it shows absolutely no evidence of the conflict going on outside of it. Everyone I met there is very straightforward and very open-minded…At least more so than I have been used to in the last four-ish months.
I think I’d like to return to Tel Aviv, but definitely with friends. Jerusalem, however, I could definitely live in…and I hear Eylat is supposed to be incredible--something about dolphins.
So, thanks Israel, for teaching me who to trust, to giving me a backbone, for showing me ancient religious tourism, and for showing me good people do exist in light of bad situations.