I am starting this e-mail while we are at 39,000 feet and about 2 hours out from Ben Gurion Airport, Tel Aviv. Our first sign that this isn’t like every other trip we have taken was when we got to the gate at Atlanta. We had already cleared security in Orlando so Holly thought that it would be a good idea to buy a large bottle of water to take with us to the hotel when we landed. Sounded like a good idea at the time, but when we got to the gate we found out we had to go through a passport check and another complete screening at the gate. They had two complete screening lines set up after they scanned our boarding passes. That meant shoes off, computers out of the bag, and they confiscated our big bottle of water. Once we got airborne the Captain made the announcement that once we are 30 minutes out from Tel Aviv it is an Israeli requirement that all passengers must remain strapped in their seats for the remainder of the flight. I would also bet that there are some armed Israeli Air Marshals on board. I expect a mad rush for the bathrooms when we are about an hour out. It has been a great flight so far, we both slept better than we have ever slept on an airplane, partly because they have upgraded the seats in Business Class so they completely recline flat. After a really good meal for an airplane, you had a choice of Grilled Beef Tenderloin and Shrimp Scampi, Roasted Chicken, or Crab Cakes, and an appropriate amount of wine; we had a great night’s sleep. They then had a continental breakfast in the morning and a choice of a Hot Roast Beef Sandwich or Chicken Caesar before we landed. It was interesting that the menu clearly stated that menu selections do not contain pork. Heaven only knows what security procedures await us when we land. I do know taking photos at the airport is prohibited and they will confiscate the camera so there will be no pictures posted from the airport.
The airport was actually easy to get through other than walking for miles prior to getting to passport control. After we cleared passport control, and got our luggage, and after a lot of looking around, we finally found our Muslim driver holding a sign with our name on it. We would have normally taken a cab but I pre arranged a pick up because it was Shabbat and the Jewish drivers didn’t become available until the three stars aligned in the sky and I had read that it is sometimes had to find a cab on Shabbat. I checked our driver out for explosive vests etc and feeling he was okay, we headed off to Jerusalem. Luckily the three stars aligned and we arrived at the hotel just as Shabbat was ending, the drive was blocked because a bunch of orthodox Jews were in front praying, so the driver had to park in the street, and we had to wrestle our luggage into the lobby and couldn’t check in until the reception desk booted up their computers. Our driver told us that the Jews will stone your car if your drive into their neighborhood on Shabbat. Once he told us he was taking a Rabi home and they stoned his taxi. He knew we were ok tonight because the Jewish gas station was open as we passed by. After we got our stuff to the room we went out looking for a place to replace the water we had to leave at the Atlanta airport and Holly made the first big gaffe of the trip. The small store with the water also sold wine so we decided to get a bottle for the room. The store was obviously run by a Muslim because it was open during Shabbat, but Holly asked the proprietor for a good wine, he said he didn’t know because he didn’t drink, so she pick out another wine and asked him if it was any good and he said he didn’t know; he didn’t drink, so she picked up another bottle and asked him if it was any good and once again got the same answer and he was probably thinking wow these Americans are dense. We then looked at a couple of kosher restaurants that were just opening for dinner but remembered that we were told not to eat in a kosher restaurant on the evening of Shabbat because most of the food was cooked on Thursday so we went back to the hotel and ate Norwegian Fish Sandwiches, that were really good and I had a fine Israeli beer on the hotels outside patio on the fourth floor overlooking the Old Walled City. A beautiful view. We are now back in the room drinking the wine that Holly picked out and irritated the Muslim Proprietor over and are getting ready for bed. No pictures posted tonight because it was dark when we arrived in Jerusalem, but we left a 6:00 AM wake up call for tomorrow and plan to hit the ground running.