Israel

Entry Info

5 days in total I stayed in Jerusalem. Time was going by super quickly when I was walking around the old town and eating out at the new town. I could've visited the other cities such as Gaza and Bethlehem but so delicious were the meals at the new town's Jewish area that I just stayed at Jerusalem. Although they are certainly not typical local foods- hamburgers, salads etc.-, somehow they went very well with my taste. It was absolutely the best until this time and probably one of the top 5 delicious cities over this whole trip. If you are going to Jerusalem, don't eat kebabs only. You should as well try decent bars and restaurants at the new town. Jewish quality is a kind of eye opener.

The next flight was going to Lisbon via Frankfurt by Lufthansa, leaving on the early Saturday morning. The reason why I chose the transit at Frankfurt was of course the first class lounge (it's not the terminal this time), but I'll save this story for the next entry. The issue here is the flight time, Saturday morning. In fact I hadn't realised this until arriving at Jerusalem though due to the Jewish weekends, all public transportation in Israel is almost paralysed on Friday and Saturday. According to the timetable, it looked like I had to leave there early Friday morning otherwise the next bus would be on Sunday.

Since I didn't want to waste a whole day at the airport (and worry about oversleeping), I asked to the hostel's owner for other solutions and he answered "No worries. We are Muslims and don't care about Jewish weekends. We can organise a shuttle bus on Friday. What time do you want to leave?" Oh fantastic! I told him "the latest one" and it was leaving at 20:00. Well, late enough. Although I missed the peak of the Friday gathering in front of the Western Wall, which is very famous for its divine atmosphere, anyway I could observe people start chanting. I hope to watch the whole process if I have a chance to visit here again.

After picking up the passengers, the bus made its headway to the Tel Aviv airport. The bus driver was quite typical of this trip, a speed demon. Though I couldn't see the meter, he was driving recklessly on the passing line and overtaking a number of vehicles. Besides, in case of being overtaken, he automatically tried to defeat the rival again. In general, independent bus drivers are always aggressive.

Thanks to the hard effort of the driver, the bus arrived at the airport just after 21:00. Considering the time spent for picking up the other passengers, it took no less than an hour, even though it had taken more than an hour from the bus terminal to the other when I'd come from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Nevertheless, my flight time wouldn't become earlier no matter how early I arrived at the airport. I had to wait until 3 a.m. for the check in. Well, I'm actually quite good at spending time; providing a decent bench and electricity I could turn on my laptop and 6 hours wouldn't be too long to edit my blog and photos, except for being casually questioned by the guard.

The departure gate was milder than the arrival gate. When I submitted my passport, the officer asked me "Why you don't have the stamp?" "I didn't mind getting the stamp but the other officer sent me to a different room and gave me the paper for the stamp!" replied I half angrily. The officer didn't respond at all, saying "uhhh, O.K." he let me through the gate. No departure stamps. I just assume that if I'd answered him "because I want to go to the other Middle East countries", he would've given me the stamp with a big smile. There are no records of entering Israel on my passport and quite a few people envy me for it. But I have very hazy feeling about it.

Anyway, this was the last day of my Middle East trip. Since I visited Dubai in the middle of February (despite sidetracking to Europe) those 90 days were full of new experience, notice, and meetings. Despite the international political reports, this area was absolutely safe and welcoming. Avoiding the real conflicting area, such as Iraq at this moment, I'd like to recommend world travellers to visit here. I can assure you that you can find a lot of new aspects of values.

Well, next is a train trip in Europe!

Entry Info

Jerusalem, the Holy PlaceIt took only an hour to come to the huge Jerusalem bus terminal by an express coach from Tel Aviv. From the terminal, I took a local bus to the Palm Hostel recommended by the other travellers. This hotel is owned by an Arabic owner and one bed per night costs only 50ILS(15USD) which is absolutely cheap in Jerusalem. Because of this fact, many travellers visit this hostel from all over the world. At the time, the majorities consisted of Koreans and Germans. According to the owner many Japanese stay there but it was not the peak season of the Japanese travellers. Well, he knows a lot.

Jerusalem, the Holy PlaceJust in front of the accommodation, stands the Damascus gate which is one of the main entrances of the old town and going through the gate I could find the Muslim area of the Jerusalem old town. Fresh vegetables and fruits, colourful spices, bizarre electric appliances, even though the size of the cities were bit different, this scenery reminded me the other Arabic cities I'd passed such as Amman and Damascus and I somehow felt a kind of nostalgia.

Jerusalem, the Holy PlaceWalking for a while, a strict security gate guarded by armed soldiers appeared on my eye sight. As if it had been at the airport, I had to go through the x-ray security check and it was a large Square after the gate. Wearing pure white shirts and deep black suites, having long moustaches, putting top hats, exactly the typical looking Jews were praying against a gigantic wall. This is the famous "Western Wall".

The Western Wall is the only remaining part of the Jerusalem Temple which was the foremost holly place for Jews built by the King David before the Common Era. The prosperity of the old Israel Kingdom had been destroyed by the Roman invasion and since then the broken Jews around the world have been wailing for this tragedy and praying for the rebuilding of the kingdom. Being surrounded by tourists, many Jews were earnestly praying towards the wall. There was a special corner for foreigners and travellers were allowed to imitate praying but this dignified atmosphere hindered me doing so.

Jerusalem, the Holy PlaceLooking up the wall, the Dome of the Rock, the oldest Muslim building is standing behind it. As well as Jews, Jerusalem is one of the holiest places for Muslims. It is said Mohamed, the founder of Islam, had a holy experience flying to Jerusalem from Mecca for one night. Unfortunately, the area itself was restricted for the non Muslim visitors but I could see the golden dome very well from the hill.

Continuing the walking further, I arrived at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which is believed to have been built on Golgotha. Well, I might have learnt about the Crusades when I was sleeping on the desk. On the day, I heard Christian tourists singing choirs under the sound of bells.

Jerusalem, the Holy PlaceIt took only 2 hours to walk around this course. It would've taken less than 1 hour without any halt and within this tiny area the three big religions called "Abrahamic religions" have their most holy places. I could see the tense atmosphere -Jerusalem is the most contentious city place of the world- from the soldiers everywhere carrying heavy machine guns. However, I felt absolutely safe there too ironically due to the soldiers. Nobody would commit mugging or whatever in front of the machine guns.

Well anyway, religions are so difficult. Since when I stayed in Australia, I've been thinking that humans tend to congregate according to their similarities. Family blood, nationality, gender, school, race, favourite musicians etc., if somebody has the same attribute, we recognise this person is a friend and develop intimacy. On the other hand, if the person has the opposite attribute, we are prone to be exclusive. Religions are the epitome of this story; if they share the same doctrine they can be fellows even beyond nationalities yet they could be brutal to the others if they believe in their god as the only true religion

And Jerusalem has three religions believing their own god is the only one and claiming "this city is ours". Well, it's understandable that this is the most disputed area of the world for ages. I'd like to grumble, "Dear God, how many of you are here and who is real?"

On the other hand, our Japanese view of religions is completely opposite to this. An average Japanese celebrated their childhood at a Shinto shrine, wedding at a Christian church, and funeral at a Buddhist temple. What's more, we have a very busy year ends starting from Christmas(Christianity), end of the year bell(Buddism), and new year visit to Shrine(Shintoism). However, we don't really believe in those seriously, I know quite a few Japanese got confused at abroad when they were asked "Do you believe in the God?"

Speaking about myself, I used to suffer from this but for now I'm actually proud of not relying on anything too much. I suppose, for this reason I can make judgments based on my own value. Therefore if I had to state, I believe in myself and social morality. For instance, speaking about a support to the others, I do it because I want to see their smile not because I was told by God "You can go to the heaven if you do so".

Oh, I've sidetracked from the heavy story. But I don't want to conclude this entry with a cheap phrase like "May the peace arrive soon." as I was forced to ponder over something deep for the human's sin and karma. Mutual concessions, forgiveness, and acceptance, I assume all of us were taught these things in our childhood but a lot of adults all over the world can't follow them. Well, maybe because it's even difficult for adults, we teach them to the children. I wonder when everyone will become capable of these principles..

Entry Info

6th (Sat)
Nov 2010

[day142] Tel Aviv Night Out

Tel Aviv Night OutCome to think about an Israeli city, Jerusalem is arguably the most famous one, isn't it? In fact I'd been thinking to go to Jerusalem directly from the Tel Aviv airport but changed my mind to visit at Tel Aviv city at first for interviewing a top Israeli web studio "INKOD HYPERA" due to the Adobe's article I was writing at the time.

Tel Aviv is a modern city developed by Jews in their early settlement days and it's the central hub of the Israeli economy now. Though the suburban parts have a distinctive gray atmosphere being similar to the other Middle Eastern countries, down town has some high buildings and it doesn't look different from the other Western developed cities, except for the signs written in Hebrew. Besides, the Mediterranean beach cleanly maintained and there are of course many beautiful girls wearing bikinis.

Well, actually this situation, the bikini girls are everywhere on the beach, merits for girls more than just a feast for men's eyes. It was especially noticeable at Egypt and Jordan that Muslim males are prone to make bad sexual harassments towards foreign girls as they are tightly restricted approaching any Muslim ladies but free to contact with non Muslim girls. (Although the Middle East is a great destination for travelling, every female traveller should aware of this fact.) On the other hand, Israelis are much more familiar with girls and wouldn't dare unpleasant things.

Well, let's get back the point, as Tel Aviv is quite a modernised city and the prices are also higher than the other surrounding countries, presumably the same as or bit higher than Istanbul. For instance, a dorm room costs about 10-15 euro per night. It's a huge leap from Egypt and Jordan where you would get even change from 5 euro. However, from another point of view, it could be said that you can receive high quality of services as good as the other Western countries with reasonable prices.

In fact, I went to a bar located at the top of a skyscraper, drank 2 glasses of cocktails and the final bill was 100ILS(28USD). If it had been the bar at Tokyo's high building, this amount would've been just for a cover charge. Besides, due to the tipping system the bartender was very hospitable. After a little chat, she gave me a small plate of olives. Well, I need to enjoy myself freely at this kind of stylish places. Actually, rarely had I gone for drinking alone in Tokyo but it seems like I acquired a new habit during this trip.

Tel Aviv Night OutBesides, speaking about the night life in Tel Aviv I have to mention about the clubbing that Ilan, the founder of INKOD, took me around. Fridays and Saturdays in Israel are notorious among foreign travellers for the Sabbath day, on which most of shops close and public transportations got polarised. Nevertheless, according to Ilan, for the young local people living there the Sabbath is just a weekend and therefore clubs get their peaks on the Sabbath. I'd never heard of this kind of story. "I can show you the real Tel Aviv, Satoshi", accepting his generous offer, we decided to go out on the next Saturday.

The first place was a lounge club which was integrated with a balcony of a hotel located along the coast. After passing through the strict security gate, there were actually a lot of young people chatting, drinking and dancing. Coincidentally, the day was the final of European League Soccer and the DJ was playing fashionable tunes in front of the huge screen where the soccer image was being projected. It was completely opposite from the other part of the city occupied by silence.

Tel Aviv Night OutWhat's more, miraculously (beautiful!) girls greatly outnumbered boys at the club. I presumed that because of the mixture of Jewish blood from all over the world, the number of attractive people grew but it was a mystery how come so many. Though I didn't dare anything as I was planning to go to Jerusalem on the very next day, I recommend male travellers visiting Tel Aviv going to this club. I assure you it's a sort of paradise.

The second club was situated at the harbour area. In the open air area, the atmosphere was similar to the previous one; many people were shooting the breeze and enjoying the night breeze. But there's a building leaking loud sounds in the back area. After entering the architecture, it turned out a typical dance floor with frequent flashing lights and a revolving mirror ball. Being packed like sardines, everyone was moving their body as they liked.

Speaking about myself, though I'm not good at dancing, closing my eyes and giving way to the frenzied rhythm I can feel like I'm the last person left in this world. Nobody cares about me at all though many people were dancing around me. I love this isolated feeing.

As such, thanks to the new friend in Tel Aviv, I could enjoy the local life there. Being a traveller, it's always nice to have local tips which take me to any occasions ordinarily travellers can't get in.

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