Next year in Jerusalem

March 21 2007

The last 24 hours have been pretty frustrating.

My hope and plan for today had been to take a few hours in the morning and get to Jerusalem's old city.  It doesn't feel right to be in Israel and not visit the most important place for my religion, even if I have been there before.

Well, that didn't happen.

When I found out about the strike last night, I really didn't know what to do.  The plan was to depart Tel Aviv at 6 AM, giving me several hours in Jerusalem before my onward flight.  But then it was announced that the labor union strike would begin at 6 AM.  I could still get a taxi to Jerusalem, but then what?  So I set the alarm to wake at 6 AM, figuring I'd make a decision based on this morning's status.

At 6 AM, they announced that the strike would be delayed until 9 AM.  I hadn't anticipated this scenario, and it left me paralyzed.  Not wanting to be stuck in Jerusalem, nor wanting to check out of the hotel if I was going to be back there tonight, I just rolled over and went back to bed, setting the alarm at 9 AM.

It took until 9:30 for word to get out -- the strike had begun.  Disappointed, I tried to figure out what to do next.  Something in me thought to look at the airport's website for updated information, and there I was surprised to see that flights were both landing and taking off.  Huh?  So I called Lufthansa, who insisted that the flight would take off on time, as scheduled.  I asked three times, since I was certain that the person I was talking to was not in Israel (her Hebrew accent was as bad as mine).  This changed things for sure.

I decided all there was left to do with three free hours was shop.  I haven't had any time for that, and there were a few things I had hoped to buy while here this week.  So I asked the hotel concierge where to shop.  He put me in a taxi to a shopping mall -- exactly the wrong kind of mall.  I didn't need to be in Tel Aviv to shop at Kenneth Cole or Montblanc.  Even the store that I had been told to shop at didn't really meet my needs.  So I wasted what little free time I had with a wild goose chase, and ultimately will leave Israel with little to declare at US customs.

I decided there was nothing left to do but head for the airport.  They say to get here three hours ahead of an international flight.  I figured four hours would be even better.  Good thing but no need.  On the one hand, it put me in the front of the line.  On the other hand, I was "fast tracked" through security in such a way that I ended up with more than three hours to flight time.  The questions were almost identical to those leaving Chicago, but there were fewer and I didn't have to recite any prayers.  At the conclusion, I was taken past three different queues of passengers to a quick security screen, and then to the check-in counter.  So much for the "strike".

So now I'm sitting and waiting.  The Lufthansa 747 touched down about 30 minutes late...we'll see if they can turn it around on time.  My connection in Frankfurt is tight, but even if I get stuck there, I can catch a plane in the morning.

I'm not sure whether I'm happy or sad that I didn't end up stuck in Israel for a few extra days.  I really enjoyed working with some great people in IBM Israel, meeting some interesting customers, re-learning Hebrew, and digging deep into reading history.  But I feel unfulfilled on a personal level -- between the jet lag slam at the front end and the wasted day at the back, my 100 hours in Israel have not been enough.

The man on the flight out was right.  I need to come to Israel more often.  L'hitraot and Shalom, eretz Yisrael.

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