Monday, June 25, 2007


The most remarkable thing about the start of the trip is how unremarkable its been.

No one missed their connections. Almost all the luggage arrived. There was no chaos at the airports.

We gave ourselves 2 1/2 hours to check in and get through security, given that this was an international flight. We were at the gate with 2 hours to spare.

Even the Continental Airlines security check in Newark before we boarded the plane for the Israel leg was routine -- even casual, one might even say sloppy. I almost missed the interrogation we used to get from the agents when we flew El Al.

The flight was uneventful... I even managed to sleep for 5 or 6 hours, although in 1/2 hour chunks.

Even the experience at Ben Gurion was uneventful, almost pleasant. With the new terminal, it seems that most of the challenging elements of arriving in Israel were eliminated. No more walking down the steps from the plane onto the tarmac and being hit in the face with the rush of desert heat and blinding light. No more shlepping from the place to customs packed like sardines into a shuttle bus. No more bedlam at the baggage claim.

Everything went smoothly. Walking from the plane through the attractive, new terminal was actually pleasant -- a chance to stretch the legs after the long trip. Going through Israeli customs was quick and efficient. We were met by the tour rep, gathered up our bags, got on the bus to the hotel.... and there we were. At which point, one of the veteran Israel travelers in the group asked: "When does the unpleasant part of arriving in Israel begin?"

An uneventful trip.

An unremarkable arrival.

And yet it is still Israel. Another member of the group, a first time visitor remarked in astonishment: "Everything's in Hebrew!"

And now the first full day is about to begin. More later...

Richard (writing on Sander's computer)


zevshanken said...

Rich, did you notice how the new airport's architecture tried to make statements about past in the present, lifting from temple lay-out and other historical Jewish structures? I think there's a brochure somewhere at the airport that explains it.

Re: 'Everything's in Hebrew' -- How interesting a perspective. I bet seasoned visitors to Israel have the contrary reaction. It would be fun to do an actual count when on the bus in a city. How many signs are either translated or transliterated? Another thing fun to do on the bus in a city is figure out the Hebrew from the English. "Blockbuster" is a great starting point. Sound out the Hebrew till you have your first 'ah-ha!' modern Jewish moment.
-- Zev

zevshanken said...

from some Archtecture Magazine I found by Googling Ben Gurion Airport architecture:

SOM and Safdie sought to avoid the generic appearance of many large international airports, in part by reflecting the country’s culture and climate. Roger Duffy, SOM’s principal in charge, wanted Terminal 3 to embody the dichotomy of daily life in Israel, “a modern society imbued with a sense of ancient history and culture.” The extensive security procedures increase passenger wait time and tension, so Safdie and his team focused on making the passenger experience both calming and welcoming. Since Israel is both the actual home for many passengers and also the symbolic home for many Jews, the airport authority and the architects paid particular attention to dignifying the departure and arrival processes—experiences that can be particularly wrenching given the nation’s short, violence-soaked history.

By car, a white dishlike cap identifies the terminal from a distance. An upper-level drop-off ramp is separated by a gap (a precaution against vehicle explosions) over a lower-level train station. Across from the terminal, a garden of native plants, including seven mentioned in the Bible, sets the stage. It’s wrapped by the parking structure. Arcaded passageways take the passenger along the garden into the terminal, which is clad in the same Jerusalem stone as the Wailing Wall.
-- Zev

Tanya said...

Shalom Chaverim,

Mah Nishma?
Sitting here in Los Angeles and following the blog on a daily basis. Wishing I could have joined you on this trip. Sounds so fantastic.

Have a great time.