Tel Aviv and Parod (Israel: Part 2)

The same disclaimer in Part 1 holds with regards to the facts, etc.

Thursday, July 21 / Ħamishi, 19 Tammuz

The sleeping on the plane, although I managed to execute it, was not comfortable.  I didn’t take advantage of the empty seat next to me, though.  Although my body had trouble relaxing, my mind seemed to be fine.  One of the few times I’ve noticed a disconnect!

A few plane jolts jarred me awake at about the five-hour-and-30-minute mark, but I managed another hour and a half of sleep, when I woke up, parched and sore.  I waited five minutes after pressing the “call attendant” button before getting up to stretch, walking forward to the galley, and getting water on my own accord.  After drinking it, I slept for another hour.

The breakfast call was then around the eight-hour mark, as I woke up for good.  A bagel sandwich, peaches in juice, orange juice, and a pareve chocolate pastry, along with Lipton tea, were what I had.  Periodic announcements about us approaching restricted airspace were also coming.  All passengers must be seated when within 40 minutes of the Israeli border.  I wonder why that law exists?  It must make sense somehow.

The food was good, although I didn’t like the bottom half of the bagel.  After I ate, I stowed my carry-ons, and should have used the lavatory, but didn’t because the lines were long.  Of course, Murphy made an urge hit me as soon as being unseated was prohibited.  Like usual, I’ll just have to hold it!  As I got to this point, I could see the shore of Tel Aviv from the window.  WE’RE ALMOST THERE!!!

The plane landed to some applause from various Birthright participants, and at the end of the tarmac, the flight time was 9 hours, 39 minutes, and 32 seconds.  My bladder is ready to explode, but I must hold it a tad longer.  I’m probably not the only one!  Once the seatbelt sign was turned off, I was allowed to go to the lavatory, and it bought me some time anyway since we were in the way back of the plane.

Exiting the plane, we ascended an escalator and saw a “Welcome to Israel” mural at the elevator [4], and multi-lingual signs on the second floor of the airport [7]. Up some various steps, we got a series of passport entries [10].  All I was asked was for my passport and my name.  Exiting this set of kiosks, an Israeli who turned out NOT to be in our group, directed people in SH-247 to the luggage claim, rack number three.

I waited with Dina, and saw my row-mate who I never spoke to (the black hat).  It took a while, but all of our bags arrived safely.  Then, we convened at Smile Tourist Services [11-12].  Leaving the terminal, out of customs, I saw Israeli flags, and “Welcome to Israel” cardboard signs to the right as the Shorashim Israelis sang Hinay Mah Tov to welcome us and start a balloon party (a la tossing a beach ball around). Moving over to a less crowded area, we circled up as a full group and chanted “Akhim Simkha!”  while jumping around clockwise in the circle.  We are in Israel!

Heading outside into 34-degree heat (that’s about 93 Fahrenheit for the Americans on the trip), the bus [13] awaited.  They provided us with schnitzel sandwiches, peaches (or were they apricots?), and Israeli juice, of which I had grape.  I rented an Israel Phone and pored over the information.  I also converted 200 dollars into 650 shekels.

En route, I attempted to text Mom.  The phone froze on the ”r” each time I tried to text “Israel,” so after a few attempts that forced me to remove the battery and restart the phone, I adjusted my message.  While doing this, I was still eating, clumsily working items on my lap.   Once that was done, I took some pictures of the countryside from my perch on the left (driver’s) side of the bus [14-32].  The roads were rolling, with rocky landscapes, Arab towns with minarets, bus stops, and more.

We stopped at a mall for a bathroom break, and the place looked like an old Western outpost.  Drat—I didn’t take a picture of it!  As we continued on the road, I chatted with Ariel (one of the Israelis) and we discussed science and units, bus stops and rocky terrain, and a little about the Israel Defense Forces.  The bus ascended mountains in the Galilee as the view got really majestic.  Perhaps the dryness here is due to the eight-year drought, which Nitzan mentioned as we passed a dried-out reservoir.

Near Kibbutz Parod, we overshot it for a lookout point.  Exiting the bus, it gave a great view of the Galilee.  Everyone had some wine (didn’t see what kind it was, and it may have been grape juice instead) as I led Boray P’ri Hagafen and we said Shehekhiyanu together.  Great group photos followed [32-36], and the sunset made it even sweeter.  A bit farther up the winding mountain pass, we turned around at one kibbutz merely to turn the bus around, and then headed toward our kibbutz.

Our first stop was the dining hall.  Up the stairs we went, and there was a salad table in the middle [37].  Chicken was in a buffet to the left… it was soft-on-the-inside-crispy-on-the-outside with sesame seeds!  I sat with seven American ladies (failing to learn their names at this point) as the conversations were pretty quiet.  A few people felt nauseated, perhaps from jet lag.  I am tired but feel fine, as excitement is running me!

We left the dining hall and followed a path toward the rooms, and they resembled camp cabins at Cedar Point Biological Station from the outside.  Aaron went by twos and threes, splitting people into cabins, and I was paired with Scott and Gleb.  These cabins are much nicer than what I expected [38-39].  Definitely nicer than even Bluestem at Cedar Point!

Before 2115h, we returned to the dining room building.  Sitting in a circle, we learnt the first rule of the trip.  People who are tardy or have items sent to the lost-and-found get to sing, dance, or tell an embarrassing story to the rest of the group.  Thus, the on-time people enjoyed the tardy people dancing the Macarena.  Then, Nitzan and Dan went over ground rules of the trip, which are intended for us to have the best time possible.  Most of them are pretty obvious.  Afterward, we played “The Wind Blows” which was exactly like Phi Sigma Pi’s Never-Have-I-Ever.  That is, for our group with 49 people, there were 48 chairs.  The outlier gave a fact about him/herself, and everyone who shared that trait had to find a different seat.  The floor was SLIPPERY!  We also numbered off in Hebrew, and mine is esrim v’akhat, i.e. 21.

After dismissal, everyone headed out to the grass toward the back area of the kibbutz guest room village.  We played “Killer,” which is similar to SPG’s “Go” game.  One person is “it” and gets to “kill” people that they wink at, and everyone else has to identify the killer before the whole group is eliminated.  It was hard to see people’s eyes in the dark, and the penalty for a wrong guess was death.  A game of Mafia followed, but it was abandoned quickly.  For a few rounds afterward, we played Indian Chief, and some of the hand signals were pretty interesting.  It was now 0030h, and I called it a night.  One more thing: around here, Muslims celebrate weddings with fireworks (or are they gunshots into the air?), as I heard them during our Indian Chief game.

>> TO BE CONTINUED…

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