10.23 am Sun 7 Jan.
Well, elles sont arrive. Hey, when in a foreign country speak a different language (bad luck that I’m not in France…..) Well, we (myself and Helen) arrived early at Tel Aviv after a flight that I really do not want to repeat in 3 weeks’ time.
Helen and I checked in separately and I ended up one seat behind her on the leg to Bangkok. Flight left Melbourne on time, no bad weather and it was a newer plane which had the individual screens and a vast choice of things to do when you couldn’t sleep. As the flight was landing 10.40pm Bangkok time (2.40 Oz time), I thought that I wouldn’t sleep and would hopefully sleep on the way to Tel Aviv.
The new Bangkok is huuuuuuge, but very useful if you want to walk off stiff legs from the Melbourne flight. And guess what, I was the lucky bunny who got chosen for special treatment by El Al security people! No great hassle, just having to walk off into the bowels of the airport and be x-rayed (myself and luggage) and checked for any explosive residue. And of course, when I get to the hotel, I discover that my padlocked bag has been searched. Again, no great hassle and at least they didn’t cut off the padlocks as the French did when I was Paris in 2000. It just added to the ‘when are we going to get there and I need some sleep’ attitude I had. And this was not helped further when, getting on the plane, my seat is occupied (after short tussle, it was all sorted and yah, aisle seat again!)
Flight from Bangkok to Tel Aviv, the longer flight and the one where, as Helen put it, ‘mother’s little helper’ was put to good use. As we hit the ground running (first function tonight), we both felt it was necessary to use sleeping tablets. Mine worked like a treat resulting in a solid 3 hour sleep and dozing for about another two. Out of a 20 hour flight, that is not much, but it is certainly better than nothing. It was certainly better than not having the individual screens (we had an older plane and had to watch the one video that EVERYBODY else was watching). At least I slept through Flicka (no great loss) and managed to watch The Illusionist.
Getting through Tel Aviv airport was no hassle at all, just through passport control, collect luggage and waltz through customs. We caught the shuttle to Jerusalem resulting in a scenic trip through the side streets. The shuttle taxi doesn’t drop people off at set locations, but specifically where they want, including down little side alleys where it required a contortionist to get out of!
Made it to the hotel and discovered that our rooms are not ready…… Boy, were we happy?! After some juggling by the desk, they allocated us our rooms and I am currently sort of unpacking some stuff. That and stretching to get all the kinks out. Being tall is fine, even when people are constantly asking me to get things from on high. But not when I’m stuck in a plane seat for over 20 hours. That’s when I want to be 4 foot nothing so I can curl up in the seat or sit on my legs or even have enough room to stretch my legs out straight without having to stick them in the aisle, tripping people up. Anyway, Helen and I are organising our rooms, having a brief rest and then going to have some decent breakfast (our reward for actually making here in one piece). Meeting the rest of the crowd tonight and starting the full on study tomorrow. Hope to keep you all up to date, but don’t expect an entry this long every day….
Had a rest, went for a walk and had coffee in a hotel overlooking the Old City, went shopping for food, came back to find out that a room key had been handed out for my room (even though I was not sharing!), sorted that out, had to get a new key (swipe card) as mine was no longer working, had another snooze, met some others on the course and went for tea. We met the rest of the participants. We are a mixed bag: 12 from Australia, 3 from Poland and the US, 1 from Taiwan, Croatia, South Africa, Lithuania, Latvia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Romania and one other I think. It’ll be intense, but a rewarding experience!
Awake and watching CNN World News before breakfast and a morning session at Yad Vashem, followed by a guided tour around Jerusalem. The breakfasts are huge! There are a huge range of salads, cheeses, fish, and other things, in addition to the usual toast, cereal, fruit, yogurt breakfasty things
One of the things that I didn’t realise was that Jerusalem is so small. The fighting that happened in 1948 and in the Six-Day War happened in what are now part of the city. And some of the Israeli settlements whose existence is challenged are so close to the city. When you here it on the news it sounds like it is at least 100 kms outside the city. We were also shown the suburb of Gilou (sp?) which is quite close to the wall that was built recently between the Jewish and Palestinian areas. We were also taken to Mount Zion and a few other places.
The seminars are okay. The first one was presented with the presumption that everyone was religious and so could have been quite confronting to some.
Still a little jetlagged and not feeling 100% yet, but getting there.
We had the history of anti-Semitism from Ancient to Modern times in 8 hours today. It helped place a lot of things in context and show the changing face of anti-Semitism through the ages. It has been quite a whistle-stop tour of the foundations of the Jewish religion and anti-Semitism
Have bounced back from jetlagged and am actually taking notice of things as we walk down King George V St and Ben Yehuda looking for a different place for tea.
We’re situated quite well in the city, just around the corner from the centre and about 10 mins fro the Old City. We’ve organised a collective amongst some of us to get things for lunch, rather than having to buy it every day from the café. Internet access is intermittent and not free at the hotel as we were lead to believe. So posts will be few but detailed (hopefully). It’ll take ages to catch up on the board once I get back!