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Israel Part I: Not exactly the desert + Tel aviv

I feel super guilty about not getting around to writing about Israel sooner.

The guilt is made somewhat worse by the fact that I have an annoying man of Jewish persuasion next to me in the office as a constant reminder of my poor blogging skills.
I headed to Israel too-many-months-ago for a conference/retreat/meeting with people. All rolled into one because my boss had a super busy itinerary, and- because the meeting part was something I was involved in (my project is part of a larger collaboration)-, I got to tag along to everything.


A pretty great deal -even given the fact that my boss kind of threw the ‘oh by the way you’ll be giving a talk at the retreat’ thing on me the week before.
To be honest, Israel is one of those places that I’d barely even considered visiting before meeting Israeli colleagues (although it’s totally my first stop in the Zombie Apocalypse), and probably still would have taken half a lifetime to get around to if it wasn’t for the lucky happenstance of The Working Holiday.
So the boss ushered me through the fancy lounges of Istanbul airport, and we arrived on Monday evening in Tel Aviv, and were wizzed out to Rehovot by another boss-like importance man.
The first two days we infested the Weizmann Institute and I learnt the following:
1) Israelis are great at feeding you. Plus- Israeli food is generally great

2) They like cats:



3) Apparently, if you want to get full sized (supermarket) apples on your apple trees at home, you have to cut off all the other budding apple so that there is just one per flowering event (i.e. The conference we attended was very varied)

4) Israelis are GREAT at arguing. This is a total generalisation, but to be honest, about 4 different Israeli people told me this while I was there. Plus, they argued a lot. There’s a saying that if you have 3 Israelis in a room you’ll get at least 4 opinions. Someone else told me that it’s not completely foreign to argue a point, convince someone, and then switch sides and argue back in the other direction.

Those of you who have ever met me might guess that I kinda love it.

I really enjoyed the ‘Other Boss Man’ get told ‘you’re wrong’ by his people, and the fact that they did it continuously and in the most natural way ever. In my humble opinion, the world would be a better place (and possibly not just the world, but also my working space), if more people said ‘You’re wrong’ to authority.

Anyway, after a couple of days we hopped in the bus and headed for the Negev ‘Not Exactly Desert’

Parenthetically, my boss pretty much lured me on the trip by promising desert- I think he thought that that was the sort of thing and Australian would be attracted to- but every single Israeli who I’ve talked to about my trip has said ‘that’s not the desert THIS is the desert’- and then proceeded to show me photos of real desert- so I’m going to have to bow to their superior arguing skills.

So we stayed in a Kibbutz- a kind of communal living area with lots of houses and a hippie sort of vibe (but also a kind of terrifying historical/political vibe)- and one of the nights involved learning about the founding of the settlement.

Here is our guide, obliging me.

And this, my friends, is an olden-days enema-thingy:

I took off early one morning to have a look around the area- my original hope was to find something that looked desert-y to bring back photographic evidence- but alas, all that could be see-see-seen was the kibbutz.




And here, is where I start the long and pathetic tale of how RIDICULOUSLY homesick Israel made me. I think I explained this a bit when we went to Majorca and saw ‘waxy trees’ for the first time.
The thing is, German is so so ‘different’. So many things fall to the back of your mind as your senses are occupied with all this new stuff jumping up and down.
But the kibbutz smelled like home. They had eucalyptus- and lots of them. And other plants- plants of the stingy ‘not-getting-enough-water-or-nutrients-and-WOAH-buddy-turn-down-the-lights’ type. So I remembered, and I missed home.
It was much worse later, when I got to the sea.

The area of Israel we visited is famous for a particular type of flowers, and kindly, someone arranged for us that when our Taxi driver took us back to the Big Smoke, we would get to stop to take some snaps.


I frolicked- although of course in a ‘dainty ladylike and ever so professional’ way (in front of the Bossman).
The Bossman took a couple of photos, and made scientific comments about the colouring of the flowers.
We got back in the taxi.

So because I am no fool, and because the Bossman himself recommended partying it up in Tel Aviv over the weekend, I did exactly that. With large amounts of help from the friendliest person I have ever met, I made it to my hostel.

And here comes the homesickness shtick, because I am not exaggerating when I say that the second I got off the bus and smelled the sea air, my heart started beating faster.

Good Grief I miss the sea Charlie Brown.


And I miss the sunset over the sea. Suns just shouldn’t be allowed to set unless doing so visibly over a sea. That should be the rule from now on.


I spent the evening stuffing my face with hommus and strawberries while sitting on the sand, walking up and down the beach, and discovering that- if you ever want to have ‘a fun time’ with an Israeli meathead while on holiday, then you should go to Tel Aviv and walk up and down the beach.





The next morning was more of the same, but with a bit more active wading on my behalf.


I’m pretty convinced that ‘It’s Always Sunny in Tel Aviv’. And that whenever it’s sunny, there are people playing this racketball game somewhere.

You can hear the hollow ‘THUNK’ing sound up and down the beach.


As you can tell from these photos, I’m actually in the water at this point. The sea seems to have this ridiculously long stretch of shallow water with bonus sandbars so you can play at walking on water.


Check out these people! Life is just Great in Israel.


As I walked further along the beach I came upon an area with boombox music and 10s of people dancing and swirling and swaying.
It was fascinating.
And the sense of community was really beautiful.
Plus they reminded me of my aunties (and made me miss home)

Further along still were more people playing the racketball game.
But these guys were playing for keeps.

Look at that water!


I didn’t have any great plans for the day, so I sat near the beach and drank tea and sunned myself.



By mid-afternoon, when I headed back to the hostel to meet up with Andy, the people were still dancing:



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