Sunday, April 22, 2012

Israel


Believe it or not, one of my work clients is based in Israel. It was time to pay this client a visit and my boss decided to make a team outing of it.  So seven of us went spent five nights in Tel Aviv.

I didn’t know much about Israel so I was excited to make the trip - throw in a day in Jerusalem & Bethlehem, and experience it all firsthand. 

Tel Aviv

First impressions of Tel Aviv:  Run-down city made of square concrete buildings that were starting to wear. It does sit on the Mediterranean Sea and our hotel had a great view of the beach. Israelis are friendly and very welcoming. The food is also Mediterranean with kebabs, pita and most importantly hummus! They have little hummus cafes all over the place.


A few things I learned while I was there:
  • If you look beyond the worn buildings, you’ll find the largest collection of Bauhaus architecture (looks sort of like Art Deco), some examples here
  •  Given that Israel is a war-torn country, military is part of life. Serving in the military is mandatory for Israelis - two years for girls and three for boys.  The level of education provided by the military is impressive. High-tech skills (engineering, computer programming, etc.) are emphasized, originally to provide an edge to its military.  It seems to be paying off in terms of its military defense and for its economy. Israel is now a big exporter of electronics, software and medical devices. While I was there, they had just introduced an anti-missile missile, funded largely by the US government, which could censor when a rocket was nearing and would fire off a counter-missile. Pretty impressive.
  • I also learned that Israel is the only country in the world where the majority of the citizens are Jewish (75%).  Most restaurants are kosher and the hotels offer Shabbat elevators which stop on every floor so that Jews don’t have to operate electric switches on Sunday, the day of the Sabbath.

I’ll talk more about our unforgettable trip to Jerusalem & Bethlehem shortly, but I can’t forget to mention our farewell from Tel Aviv.  You’re advised to get to the airport 3-4 hours before your flight. I couldn’t believe this could be true. Most of the time when I travel, I aim for 2 ours prior, get there an hour and a half before the flight and spend an hour wandering around trying not to waste money.  What would we do for three hours? Four of us went together and we got there the advised three hours early. Thankfully we did as we had to run to the gate to make our flight.  Its an endless game of queuing and security checking.  The most tedious part of the process involved each of us having our bags manually checked, including the ones we planned to check in. The security team examined every last item in our bags, poking holes in anything sealed and paying closest attention to anything electronic. After our bag passed this screening, the personnel walked our bag over to the check-in counter and waited with us while we received our boarding pass. Then they personally loaded our bags onto the conveyor belt and ensured it was whisked away before they could head back to start all over with the next guy in line. Talk about taking security seriously! 

1 comment:

  1. Hi, Shabbat - the Sabbath - is not on Sunday, it is Friday evening Sundown to Saturday evening sundown
    Cheers

    ReplyDelete

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