Last December I was invited by the Government and Israel tourism to experience their country on two wheels. There are places I never thought my bike would take me, and to be honest Israel was definitely on that list. But there I sat with Sarah Leishman, eating dodgy food in LAX, killing a layover. The next leg of the trip, a reach that would take us from California to Tel Aviv. A half lap of the globe digesting airplane food and seats that fail to commit to comfortable. But as we finished our meal we prepared ourselves for the hurdle that lay just a few meters away… Check-in at El AL Airlines.
With a 2.5 hour buffer we wandering into the line-up and braced ourselves. Airlines flying into Israel don’t fool around. We stood there marinating in minority and waited for the inevitable “Will you please follow me”. And as if on cue, Sarah and I were ushered into a line-up all our own, before being locked into questioning by that impenetrable fabric seatbelt that conducts the line. Back in Canada we were cautioned to make sure all our trip information was on hand, along with the contacts of individuals we would be working with while in the country. Now usually when someone tells me this, I’m like “Ya, Ok, I’ll make sure I have it…” and never do. My approach to this situation was not a whole lot different. Bad move. I tried to smile and talk my way into convincing this lovely, brown eyed woman, with a rare ability to show zero emotion, that I knew what I would be doing other than biking through the desert. She like my grade school teachers, was having none of it. So, I, like grade school, reached over my bags and got the answers from Sarah. Come round 2 of questioning, I was a little more informed, and managed a passing grade. My reward, 16 hrs confined to a seat. Beauty.
Looking back on the check-in experience, I can see how some people going through this process could get uptight and defensive. But if you look at it for what it is, it’s just security. Even if you think it’s over the top you still have to go through with it, so instead of taking it personally and prolonging the life probing, just relax and try not to get distracted by the three other personal watching your physical reactions to the questioning. Standard stuff really. Although I did get that feeling. You know that one where you’re cruising down the highway with a police car right on your tail, sweating bullets for no reason what so ever. Yeah that was me. That being said… make sure you have your details in order. There may not always be a Sarah there to bail you out. I even got a hint of a smile from Brown Eyes as I made my way through security.
We flew in over cloudy skies, picked up, and driven to Jerusalem. Unfortunately seeing little of Tel Aviv. But hey, out with the new and in with the old. Where do you start when it comes to Jerusalem. Sarah and I arrived a day earlier than the rest of the team giving us time to grab a cappuccino, kebab, and see a little of the city through our own eyes.
The western media and view of Israel is a skewed at best. Naive and sensationalized. Every one of my preconceived notions were shattered within that first day. Re-enforcing the fact that you should build your own perspective from first hand experience rather than being spoon fed dramatized bullshit. Jerusalem is an amazing city. Are there underlying tensions from a millenia of history revolving around religion? Of course. Depending on who you ask, Jerusalem is a number of things. But for us it was an experience. The old cities cramped quarters, laden with markets spilling, nuts, spices, and produce into the streets was an eclectic view of everyday life within its walls. Beyond the fortified barrier, electric rail cars float on cobblestone streets lined with cafes, restaurants, and polished store fronts. A scene I found reminiscent of Rome or Paris. Here we found ourselves in a city thatched weave of ancient and modern.
A night ride through the underbelly of the old city was a unique way to see the tamed avenues that host daily market commerce. The following day we were riding to the Dead Sea via “The Sugar Route”.