My flight landed at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport at 4:30 AM. In a groggy haze, I made my way through the airport, not looking forward to the customs checkpoint. Before my flight, I had been singled out and searched excessively at Heathrow, and I expected a repeat of the strict Israeli security and too many questions at customs.
To my surprise, I was greeted at the bottom of the escalator by a young man holding a sign with my name on it (being a writer does have its perks). He whisked me through customs, introduced me to my tour guide (Mike), and I was off to the Sheraton Marion Hotel in Tel Aviv. Luckily, I had time for a nap before our tour of Tel Aviv and Jaffa.
That morning, awoke to the sun pouring in through my hotel window. It had been dark when I arrived, and I hadn’t realized that the hotel was right on the beach – and it was a very nice hotel. The weather was perfect, the beach looked beautiful, and so I took a walk in search of cigarettes and breakfast. Later, I met the rest of the group and we wandered around the city with our guide – our official introduction to Israel. Tel Aviv is a very modern city, and Jaffa is the old city adjacent– it is full of alleyways and artists, but has fallen on hard times in recent years and seemed almost deserted.
The next day we drove to Caesarea, an ancient port city built by King Herod, now restored with shops nestled inside ruins. The area has a beautiful coastline and in the summer it is a popular weekend hangout. Next, we drove north towards Haifa, but took a (planned) detour through some banana plantations to check out a skydiving center. Somehow, I ended up jumping out of an airplane that afternoon.
The Ministry of Tourism had arranged for one of us to skydive, and I was volunteered for the job. To be honest, I was completely terrified, but the staff made me very comfortable and before I knew it, I was wearing a jumpsuit, strapped to an instructor, and speeding down a runway in an old Cessna airplane. We ascended to
All in all, it was an incredible experience, and I’m glad that I went through with the jump, despite my original hesitation.
Currently, I’m in Jerusalem, which is an incredible city. There is so much history here, it’s really overwhelming. I’ll have post a Jerusalem update on another day, once I soak it all in.