My Last Day in Israel

November 8, 2009 - 12:53 am No Comments

Woke up this morning on a mission to squeeze in as much as I could on my last day in Israel. We had a plan to drive up the coast a bit before driving back to Tel Aviv to drop me off at Ben Gurion Airport.

Warm sun, cool breeze. Another perfect day. Every day has been warm but not hot, every night has been cool but not cold. This must have been the perfect time of year to come to Israel.

In the car, Marion kept talking about how much she enjoyed the camel ride in Petra. She can’t stop talking about it.

Our first stop was Soreq Cave, just outside of Jerusalem. I didn’t have high expectations for it, but I found it to be surprisingly large, ornate, and creatively lit.

Soreq Cave

Soreq Cave

Soreq Cave

Soreq Cave

Soreq Cave

It was also pretty warm and humid in there, so by the end of it, we were all a bit damp and gross.

From the cave, we drove up to Caesarea (rhymes with “diarrhea,” not “malaria”), a Roman-style port with ancient ruins and lots of restaurants and shops. After picking out a restaurant, it took almost 30 minutes to get a table (apparently the locals have priority) and another an hour and a half for the waitresses to finally get our lunch order right. Restaurant service here is mediocre at best.

I’m not impressed with Israeli food. It’s almost like they got together and decided to put all of the foods I don’t like onto one menu. I’m overloaded with hummus and falafel and onion and mushrooms and eggplant and tabouli salad. (No, I’m not the pickiest eater I know.) My Dad and Marion seem to be coping with the food selection, but I’m tired of it. And it doesn’t matter if it’s Israeli or Jordanian or Lebanese, it’s all pretty much the same.

Many, if not most, of the restaurants in Israel are kosher. Following laws laid out in the Torah, kosher means that there are specific requirements for what food is served and how it can be prepared. It usually means a very limited selection of meat, and you can never have meat dairy with meat, so no cheeseburgers or pepperoni pizza or real lasagna. If you’re eating seafood, you can have fish but no crustaceans.

The things I can find everywhere and enjoy, like lamb and chicken and potatoes and cole slaw, are served at every meal, so I’m starting to get sick of even that stuff. If you have a craving for iced tea, bottled Nestea Peach is about the only kind they have. I take for granted variety of food we have in America.

There are some pretty decent computer simulations showing the history of the place, but there’s not much to look at. Most of the ruins are really ruined. Today, it seems like Caesarea is mostly a romantic place for local couples.

Smokestacks, Statue, Wall, Sun

Horses of Metal

Beach at Caesarea

Ancient Closets

Roman Aqueduct

After Caesarea, it was off to the airport. While I had to head home and get back to work, my Dad and Marion are staying a few extra days, so it was time to say goodbye.

Making my way through security, I was the subject of the interrogation. “Did you pack your bags? Where did you pack them? Who packed them? Did anyone else pack them? Who were you here with? Who are you traveling with? Where did you stay?”

If you say something like “I am here with my Dad,” they will quickly respond with “Are you traveling with him? Why is he staying? Where is he staying?” It’s all very fast and fluid, and they follow every tangent as far as it will go. You have to really pay attention to avoid misanswering them or stumbling over your words to arouse suspicion.

Going through the metal detector, I didn’t have to take jacket or sweatshirt or shoes off. It’s almost like interrogation (and presumably also racial profiling) seem to be more effective screening processes than any reliance on machines.

Why isn’t it the same back home? Do we rely on half-naked passengers walked through hypersensitive metal detectors because we don’t have a properly trained staff to interrogate people? Is it because we don’t have a population that would tolerate interrogation? Or is it because the general population would struggle with rapid fire, repetitive questions in general, making interrogation useless?

Imagine if there were a change in policy and Americans had to have these extended conversations for all flights? Americans would go apeshit. Too much work. Americans want to be safe but don’t want to be inconvenienced with conversation.

In any case, airport security is arguably more effective and definitely less of a hassle in Israel than it is back home.

I have a window seat on the plane. Every time I fly, it amazes me how small the seat and legroom areas are. I know it’s coach, but it’s uncomfortable being confined in those tiny seats for ten hours at a time. Yes, you can get up and walk around, but when you have two sleeping people between you and the aisle, I feel like a bit of a dick waking them up. If you need to get something out of your bag, it’s quite possible that you will pull a muscle trying to retrieve it.

On the seat back in front of me, I just watched Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, parts of which were shot in Wadi Rum and Petra. The movie got the geography horribly wrong, obvious to me since I was just there a couple of days ago.

It’s black outside. Going to try to get some sleep.

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