Traveling for 24+ hours is exhausting. You're excited. You're ready to go. You have a book, a magazine, an iPod, ambien, whatever you need to make the time pass while you wait to board, take off and land. Before we even left Denver, we knew our flight from JFK was already delayed.
Our first glance that we were heading to someplace "different?" In the airport we saw some Orthodox Jews praying, wearing their shawls, the seven wraps on their arms, and the scrolls on the forehead. We saw them again praying on the plane. Our flight was full - primarily of excited college-age kids heading to Israel with an organization called Birthright Israel. The next sign? The flight attendant offers you a choice of chicken, pasta or kosher.
(time passes - slowly) Finally we arrive in Tel Aviv! We all collect our luggage and go through customs. There is no arrival card or form to fill out. They know why you're there - and knew in advance that you were coming. We met our guide, Peter, on the other side of security, he shepherds us out of the air conditioning into the humidity to the bus, we meet Jawdot, our driver, and we are on our way!
We start, probably a good way for most trips to start, with a geography lesson. What is Israel now, what was it before. What happened in 1948? What happened in 1967? What is Palestine? Why is the West Bank called the West Bank? (it's on the west side of the Jordan river, in case you're curious). A little bit about the demographics of Israel (proper - not including Gaza and the West Bank): 80% is Jewish, 70% of that population is secular, 10% is ultra-Orthodox, and 20% practicing. The other 20% is Arab, including Muslims, Christians, and other groups.
Our first stop was Caesarea Martima (on the sea). As pictured below, happiness must be sitting on an ancient aqueduct overlooking the Mediterranean and smoking a water pipe.
Catching the sunset