I had googled myself silly about the possible “challenges” that could arise when landing on Tel Aviv. It was strongly suggested that I should refrain from mentioning Palestine at any cost, and just “stick to the tourist story” instead.
I don’t like lying and am, in fact, quite terrible in it. My golden middle way at the passport control was to tell that I’m heading to Jerusalem, and that I am planning to do some writing whilst in Israel “and surrounding areas” (this is me doing some writing!). I was even a bit disappointed as the security officer didn’t even seem to be interested to hear about my elaborated half-truth; he just sighed, printed out my stay permit the second he heard me uttering the word “holiday”, and said “welcome to Israel” in such a monotone way even Kimi “the Iceman” Raikkonen would have raised his eyebrows in surprise.
I landed to Tel Aviv at the crack of dawn yesterday and managed to get a sherut (shared taxi) to Jerusalem, which indeed was my first destination (see how I would had not been lying before!). Trying to score a servees (shared Arab taxi) to Hebron turned out to be a pain though; I was way too early. Dismissing the option of waiting several hours with my two (!!) heavy suitcases, I took the easy way out and hailed a private (Arab) taxi – or actually, he hailed me. After some serious haggling (he wanted me to pay 300 shekels, I got it down to 190 like the pro that I am) we were on our way, and spent the next 45 minutes that it took in pleasant, although somewhat broken English conversation.
Having had two hours of “airplane sleep” the night before, I was quite happy to spend the day at the accommodation apart from a very small trip to the local corner shop where I scored some emergency food (noodles). I was happily surprised to hear that my “shared accommodation” wasn’t shared at all (at least, not at the moment), so I have my own room with a balcony (smoker’s paradise).
This morning I made a cup of coffee, took my “stroopwafels” (Dutch waffles) my colleagues gave me before my departure, and flip-flopped outside to have my “East meets West” -breakfast. I could hear the cars honking (as they always seem to do here!) and with my first sip, the second morning prayers filled up the air in their whole chaotic serenity.
I closed my eyes, took a deep breath and smiled.