Israel Isreally Sababa (part 1)

It has been eight years since I last stepped foot in Israel. Almost enough time to forget how crazy, diverse and beautiful the holy land is. But it has taken just five days here for me to be amply reminded of just how much I love the immense variety of life in my homeland. It was almost midnight when I met my sister at Ben Gurion airport after the long flight from Seoul and the place was full of people. There were more people waiting for the train into Tel Aviv than there would be at midday Saturday in the middle of Hobart (but OK that’s not saying much).It was on the train that the first reminder of life in Israel became immediately apparent when a group of soldiers took their seats next to us complete with machine guns and ammunition belts. I think I must be getting old but it is really quite incredible to think that so much of the security of this volatile country rests in the hands of nonchalant, baby-faced teenagers, who are probably more concerned about whether they’ll pick up on their one weekend off a month. Still, they certainly look more responsible and clued-in to the realities of life than the average 17-year-old Aussie guy. But maybe that’s just the buzz cut and the uniform.

Anyway, my trusty sister has planned the perfect reintroduction to Israel for me – a delicious enormous Israeli breakfast. In Israel, breakfast is arguably the most important meal of the day. And understandably too, because breakfast consists of shakshuka, salads, fried eggplant, olives, lots of hummus, too many cheeses to name, pita bread and the best rugelach in the entire universe. Once we could move we left the chedar ochel (large communal dining room) and headed for a tour of the kibbutz, the collective community where my sister now lives. Although the kibbutz contains amongst other things a zoo, a sports complex, 100’s of acres of fish ponds which attract an amazing array of wildlife, kayaks, boats, and a horse riding arena, its best feature by far is that it is right on the beach. And a long lazy swim in the Mediterranean was a perfect way to end the day.

The next two days I spent eating, talking, eating some more, and generally spending quality time (i.e. eating) with all my family; with eight years having passed since we all last saw each other, there was lots to catch up on. Then yesterday my sister and I headed off to travel around the north of Israel. The first port of call was the bustling port city of Haifa to see the largest Baha’i temple in the world. We did eventually get there but only after being led in circles through Haifa’s maze of narrow back streets by the friendly but increasingly annoying American twang of our GPS Sat Nav man. In the end, we “arrived at our destination” but realised we were about half an hour too late to take a tour through the site, which is the only way in, and were therefore left to simply take photos of the hazy view over the sea and contemplate lunch.

With a hearty falafel lunch in our bellies, we quickly beat a convoluted retreat out of Haifa, which entailed yet another round circles and side streets (let me never drive a car through there again). However, this time all the endless roundabout driving was made worthwhile when on one of these adventures, or “route recalculations” as SatNav man refers to them, a mongoose walked casually in front of our car.  As mongooses (or is it mongeese?) do not normally inhabit cities I can only imagine it was also having trouble navigating in Haifa!

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