This might be one of those blog entries I don't want my mom to read.

The flights to Israel today were completely uneventful.  It was my first (and perhaps last) international flight on Continental.  I can see that the United+Continental integration team has a ton of challenges to work out between them.  Not just routes and aircraft, but economy plus or not, in-flight directTV or not, "channel 9" tower audio communications or not, automatic upgrades or not, and a whole host of other not-completely-commoditized distinctions between the two airlines.  It was also interesting to note the difference in airport security between El Al and Continental bound for Tel Aviv; Continental had a crew of minimum-wage workers doing minimum wanding and bag opening, vs. the "prove you are who you say you are" approach on El Al.

At any rate, the eleven hour flight passed quickly as I watched the 1st Christopher Eccelston season of Doctor Who on the iPad (haven't watched the show since my youth, time to catch up), and in short order I was in Tel Aviv.

I studied Hebrew for six years in elementary and junior high school.  While it got me through a Bar Mitzvah, when I arrive in Israel, I realize how completely useless it all was.  See, for whatever reason, and maybe this is no longer the case, the Hebrew we were taught back then included the phonetic vowel marks, which in Hebrew appear below or next to other letters.  Here in Israel, the vowel marks are never used.  (You can see the difference in this posting -- my name, Chaim Rafael Brill appears below without vowels, while the location, Tel Aviv, has little dots under the "T" and "Av" letters).

So I look at a word, and unless I happen to recognize it by pattern (which is maybe ten whole words in the entire vocabulary), it is meaningless to me.  I can't sound it out to try to see if the phonetic is recognizable, because I don't know how to sound it out.

That would be OK if I could rely on English as a universal language.  EVERYBODY in Israel speaks English, but NOBODY in Israel posts signs in English.  I passed a restaurant tonight that happened to have an English sign called "La Plancha".  It looked interesting, but the menu on the chalkboard was completely in Hebrew, and I did not want to be the lame American asking for them to translate everything.

In the end, I had dinner at a place I also ate at back in 2007, Max Brenner, Chocolate from the Bald Man.  Before I left, I had to take the Hebrew version of their website through Google translate, in order to determine if they were open on Friday night (Sabbath) or not.  The English version of their website, of course, did not list the hours for the Israeli locations.  Knowing they were open, and that not only do they have great dessert but great dinner, my iPad and I went over to dine al fresco in December and enjoy the Israeli evening.  The beef kabobs on cinnamon sticks were excellent, and of course the chocolate chocolate chocolate souffle was decadently excellent.  But it was just as much fun to listen to the sounds of Friday night life, watch a table of tweens celebrate a birthday, and relax after the long journey.

On my way back to the hotel I ended up walking too far south and ended up in Neve Tzedek, a neighborhood that seemed alive in every block.  I hope I'll have time to shop there on Sunday or Monday, because window shopping tonight was the first time I saw beautiful Judaica of the kind I sought on my last trip but didn't locate.

It's time for bed, my day off awaits in the morning.  
שבת-שלום
or, for those having trouble for the lack of vowels...peace for the Sabbath.

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