I arrived in Israel during Hannukah and two days before Christmas; instead of running to the first store for a sufganiot (special Hannukah donut) I had some really fun dental work done – Happy Hannukah to me! Not the best or most ideal way to start any day or trip for that matter, luckily I only had one direction to go after the drilling. With a little help, and a smile I found the city bus from the dentist to the main bus station in Tel Aviv where I made my way to Jerusalem. I didn’t know heads from tails when I got to the Jerusalem main bus station so I did what any New Yorker would do, I asked the first policeman to point me in the direction of a cab. With his heavy accent, he said “cab, I do not know a cab but get in….we find you a cab”. Get in, I thought? To your police van? This would NEVER happen in New York. He sensed my hesitation and repeated “get in, I find you a cab.” I thought to myself for minute “he’s police, cute and in a huge police van – what could happen?” I hopped into the front seat, my bag was occupying all the space available on the floor so my legs were crammed up to my chin. Once I was situated in the seat and managed to close the door we were off out of the bus station. I took a quick peek at the back of the van, instead of seats or an empty paddy wagon I saw a machine and a bunch of high tech equipment. “So, what’s that?” I asked, as I nodded my head in the direction of the large piece of equipment taking up most of the back. Nonchalantly he said, “dat is my robot, he’s for bomb detection”. BOMB DECTECTION – WTF???? Calmly and I’m sure with what I thought was a cool response I said “ahh, bomb detection hu?” He proceeded to explain there had been a suspicious package at the bus station – yada, yada. After a few minutes and a little conversation he said he would drive me to the hotel but if he got a call he would have to leave me on the side of the road. Needless to say we made it to the hotel, no urgent calls or at least if he did have a call he let someone else respond. Sabbaba!
After arriving in style I spent the first weekend, the 4th and 5th nights of Hannukah, with my Arizona cousins who happen to be traveling in Israel. I crashed their synagogue tour, got a nametag and freeloaded for 2 days at their nice hotel before heading to the army. In two quick days we celebrated Hannukah, Shabbat and wandered the cold and rainy streets of the old city on Christmas eve, trying to catch a glimpse of midnight mass. Sabbaba!
New Years weekend came quickly after our first week of volunteering. The only problem is December 31 is not a very big deal in Israel because Rosh Hashana is the celebrated New Year. I didn’t let that little fact spoil the weekend; I checked out Tel Aviv, the new modern wing on the art museum and chilled by the beach.
Luckily, we managed to find a party or two to ring in the New Year till about 4am. Sabbaba!
Since we were already in the North me and 3 other guys planned a weekend in the Golan. Haifa, Akko, Safad, and a few stops on the way. Everything was going swimmingly until the heavy rain and the day started to fade on Friday afternoon. What we didn’t know was we had chosen a very religious area to spend the weekend and Shabbat was quickly approaching. We rerouted our plans to stay at the Soldier house in Tiberias; the soldier house is not a house that a soldier lives in but an inexpensive hotel like place for Israeli soldiers to hangout when they’re off duty. As I was gazing out the windows at the Kinnerat I realized that the windows and main door of the kitchen/computer room were really really thick like 15” bomb shelter thick. Oye! Saturday proved to be more difficult since we hadn’t stocked up on Shabbat provisions and when you’re with 3 hungry boys this can become a problem very quickly. After hiking around some ancient ruins even I was starting to feel a bit faint, we eventually found an open gas station. Did we think to get gas when we were scarfing down pre-made sandwiches, packaged hummus and bamba? Nope, and about 3 hours later we had a more serious problem than being a little hungry; we were in the middle of the Golan and running on fumes. When we thought we were totally SOL we finally found a gas station, only to be further flustered by the fact that we couldn’t read the pump instructions. No worries, I hailed another car for help and we were in business. It was pure comic relief most of the weekend and when we got back to the base on Sunday the four of us needed breathers from one another. Sabbaba!
A lovely sunset shared over the Kinnerat.