Nina’s Travel Rule #39: Bloody Hell, Don’t Go to Israel in January

IMG_0389
Me making Shabat dinner with some lovely volunteer army cooks. Wooo Israel!

So, I never actually meant to go to Israel. Not that it doesn’t sound lovely or whatever, it just wasn’t in the itinerary. The trip was meant to be a 5 week honeymoon in Egypt with a possible side excursion to Jordan, solely to get my Indiana Jones impression on at Petra, of course, then 10 days recuperating from holiday on the beach in Thailand. Which sounds like, fuckin’ awesome, right?? However, it turns out my Adorable Husband has an adorable (NOT) habit of cramming too much shit into trips I feel would be better spent smoking sheesha with the locals. Which is how I found myself stuck in Tel Aviv, shoe-less, covered in slush from a massive blizzard, barely having escaped deportation at the hands of the adorable Israeli Border Guards, with all transportation options out completely snowed in. Like seriously, who else could this happen to??

It started well. After a month in Egypt, no one was dead. Well, except all the people in the buildings that (literally) kept collapsing around us out of sheer despair and decrepitude. Oh, and those folks in the train that crashed into another train and then ran over a bus the day we left Cairo. Right, yeah, and the 19 out of 21 tourists killed at Luxor when their hot-air balloon crashed into the desert; but that was like, nearly two whole months after we took the same ride, so whatevs, right? Basically what I shoulda said was….

It started well. After a month in Egypt, we weren’t dead. We’d tried though! Dune-hopping in SUV’s that’d seen better decades, through the Great Western Desert, in a spot that may’ve been 20 km outside Libya, or not, who can say… Our hostel that provided sheesha and beer strictly on the honor system… The cab driver that didn’t understand ‘Pyramids’, even when a local explained it to him in Arabic, then proceeded to drive us out to the ghetto to murder us for our pocket change and dump us in the Nile… Yeah, it was fun. At least we were there between the revolutions??

Hitch-hiking into the Sinai...
Me ‘n my Chacos, hitch-hiking into the Sinai…

But then we flew to Dahab, located somewhere in the Sinai Peninsula on the beauteous Red Sea, with stunning vistas of the Saudi Arabian mountains across the Gulf of Aqaba. Dahab is also, btw, completely overrun with Ruskies and Croatians and their voluminous baybays, not that there’s anything wrong with that (and no, we did not visit the bank across the street from the hostel. Its building had collapsed. The day before we arrived. Do I sense a theme?). We may or may not have hitch-hiked in from the airport and / or stolen some poor Brit girl’s pre-booked transport and / or both of these things, I’m really still not sure, ’cause stuff’s kinda ‘fluid’ over in North Africa, insha’alla. At a later date I’ll be sure to tell y’all how we very nearly actually did literally die climbing Mt. Sinai, but for now let’s just say that Moses musta been a tough motherfucker. In any case, it was suggested to me that it might be time for a bit of a break from the Third World and the donkeys (and the camels, and the sewage, and the bitchy urchins… I mean, I love you, Egypt! Now imshee!), and that it really is easier to get to Jordan (Harrison Ford! It’s Harrison Ford time!) through Israel. What with it being in the way and all. And this sounded like, totally reasonable, except for the following points:

1) While, yes, Egypt and Jordan are separated by Israel, there is also a delightful-sounding ferry that basically takes you from Dahab to Petra. And we know how Ninas feels about Ferries…

2) While, yes, Israel sounds like a lovely land of joy and prosperity, they also aren’t very well-liked by a number of other places that I would like to visit one day. You know, like Iraq. Or Saudi! Which I will now be doing with great difficulty, as I am indeed the proud proud owner of a fucking goddamn Israeli passport stamp. Also, ’cause if these places operate anything like my government does, they’re probably reading this blog as I type and sticking me on an evil deny-her-entry-on-sight list…

3) While, yes, it sure seems there’s a billion things to do in lovely Israel, I DO NOT HAVE THE TIME. I JUST WANT MY INDIANA JONES MOMENT.

and finally, 4) While, yes, the beaches of Israel sound amaaaaazing, it’s January. I’d like to say this occurred to me before we stepped off the plane in Jerusalem, but… indeed it did not.

Over-coming Israeli paranoia at the train station,..
Over-coming Israeli paranoia at the train station…

So, being the brilliant travel planner he is, the AH discovered that is would actually only cost us like, $30 or some shit to fly to Jerusalem from Eilat, a Red Sea beach town in Israel only like, 2 hours and a $20 cab ride away (and a border crossing, clearly, which we will get to in a mo’). The flight’s a solid hour, while the ferry’s a potential 2-day fiasco involving some sort of seeming-passport-scam in a holding bay in some Jordanian port? Or so I hear… Yeah, we were totally winning. Right?? Except…

1) Apparently the Israelis are a tad paranoid. Not that I’m blaming them or anything, but seriously what’s the fucking point in offering flight booking on your national airline to non-Israelis located outside your country (although El Al really is a lovely airline, as it turns out) when you also do not allow said Dirty Foreigners to book said flights without faxing an Israeli national ID number to you. Which ID I clearly do not and never will possess, as I am NOT ISRAELI. Not to mention the glaring lack of FAX MACHINES at most hostels in the Sinai. Or hostels anywhere. Or ANYWHERE anywhere, really. Not that you people bother to stipulate this lil’ catch fucking ANYWHERE either, but, moving on… No joke though, we spent like four times as much on international phone-calls sorting that shit out as we did on the plane tix.

2) The joyous experience stemming directly from The Israeli Border Guards Of No Humor. Now, I’ve also heard that we apparently crossed into Israel at the hands-down quickest & easiest border they have. Horror stories told in Tel Aviv about the northern Jordanian crossing are kinda still making me cringe. However, it wasn’t exactly what I would call… pleasant. The AH disagrees with my assessment, but let’s keep in mind that this is the man who purposely went to Iraq ‘on holiday’. Also it’s my fuckin’ blog anyway, so. So we taxi’d to the border and walked on into No-man’s Land. Egypt was fine with letting us go. Israel was… less fine with letting us in. I’d assumed it would be the American passport that would present problems, as this is usually the case, us being horrible people no one wants in their lovely countries, clearly. But, no. No, they loved me, super polite, yay I’m in Israel! Flight’s in an hour! Sadly, the AH had no such luck, silly Aussie. It turns out the IBGONH were a little confused as to why the man’s passport contains stamps from such lovely places as Iraq, Indonesia, and Malaysia. Explaining to them that we can’t actually fly anywhere from Perth without transiting Bali, whose airport doesn’t actually let you transit without stamping into the country (??) did not really help. Stating ‘But I went for fun! It was only Kurdistan anyway. And Iraq is lovely!’ may have devolved the situation further (let me state here, again, that, on this point, I’m totally down with the IBGONH viewpoint). In any case, we now had about 40 min to get to the airport, and the AH had been locked in a little room with a number of grumpy looking, machine-gun-toting, teenaged Israeli ladies. I mean, I’d be a grumpy-lookin’ bitch too, if I were on border patrol in Eilat, in the winter, at 8pm, dealing with some ridiculous Aussie who thinks that Iraq is a holiday destination, but still. So I sat, and sat, and ate some nuts, and sat some more. And then, with about 2 minutes to go til our check-in, a miracle occurred. No idea why, but apparently his police check was approved, I discovered I am NOT married to a terrorist, and we were in. Yay!

Oh so happy.  How I felt for much of these three days...
The AH is ohhhhh so happy. How I felt for much of these three days…

3) Don’t ever fucking try to travel with a man you’re not married to in much of the religious-leaning world. This is general travel wisdom I totally already knew. What I did not know was: Don’t ever fucking try to travel with a man you ARE married to in Israel, unless you still live in the ’60’s. I discovered this via the following conversation:

Airport Security Dude: ‘So, who is this man?’

Me: ‘This is my husband.’

ASD: ‘Ah. But you have not the same name.’

Me: ‘No.’

ASD: ‘Ah. And why?’

Me: ‘Because we don’t.’

Now, I realize I was not being particularly appeasing, as one should always be when dealing with airport personnel. And, yes, ASD was waaaay more pleasant than anyone unfortunately employed by the TSA. Yet, still. It’s my fucking name and who’d give a flying shit if we weren’t married at all? This isn’t fucking EGYPT or anything, this is the FIRST WORLD, or so you people keep telling me, anywho.

ASD: ‘Are you newly married?’

Me: ‘Yes, actually, we’re on our honeymoon.’

ASD: ‘Ah, then you will change your name soon.’

Me: And, yes, I’m a fuck-wit. ‘No, actually, I don’t plan to change my name.’

ASD: And, yes, this is totally my favorite line: ‘Ah. Well. I suppose that is your choice.’ Begrudged condescension dripping out his face.

Me: Really? Is it now? Femi-nazis have always annoyed the piss out of me, but suddenly I’m starting to feel their pain… ‘Ah. Yes. Thank you very much, sir’. But see? I can learn!

I'm sure this beach is just stunning in July...
I’m sure this beach is just stunning in July…

Blah blah yadda moving on, so we get to Tel Aviv. It’s absolutely lovely. Or, it would be in, say, July. Sadly, however, it is now in the grip of a rampaging blizzard of death, and I, as usual, have nothing to deal with it with, save my trusty Chacos and a lone pair of Egyptian socks. Which are about as useful (and attractive) as the phrase ‘Egyptian Socks’ would imply.

So, feeling terribly sorry for ourselves, unable to book a train or bus to Jerusalem (who fucking sends SNOW to ISRAEL??), and unwilling to venture more than, say, 12 feet from our hostel, owing to the Egyptian Sock issue, as well as the vast amount of the Mediterranean pouring into the city over the beach walls, we meet a buddy of the AH at the bar next door. Which, according to the vast majority of Tel Avivians, is a touristy shit-hole, and which I, caring only for cheap liquor (fuck you, Perth! haHA!), an entertaining, possibly transvestite, Thai barmaid, and WARMTH, vehemently adore. In fact, I’d tell you where it is and buy you a ticket to go, ’cause I adore it so much, yet… I do not remember its name. Yeah, the liquor really was that cheap.

Jim's Bar?  Maybe??
Joey’s Bar? Maybe??

Blah blah yadda moving on, FUCK ME WHAT HAPPENED TO MY BODY LAST NIGHT… The AH was feeling a tad better than I, what with the 50 pounds he’s got on me, NOT ’cause of his contention that I can’t out-drink him (silly Aussie…), and somehow got us through the maze of machine-gun-toting teenagers (yes. they really are EVERYWHERE), onto the train, which was indeed now running, and into Jerusalem. He did not get any of our phone chargers, adapter plugs, assorted cords, etc. onto the train with us, clearly, although this may possibly have been because I’d plugged every single one of them together and then left them on my bunk bed in a haze of hangover 😦

The Dome of the Rock.  Dang.
The Dome of the Rock. Dang.

But who cares! We’re in Jerusalem and it’s lovely. Beautiful! The history! The culture! Jesus fuck me, the bakery! No one tells you about Israeli bakeries, which are totally the most amazing thing about Israel (ok, not really, there’s also a lot of old buildings ‘n shit, but they’re still pretty fuckin’ yum). And, omg, about a solid foot of quickly melting slush-crud-snow-shit that’s making my Egyptian Socks meld straight into the gorgeous cobbled alleys. Vendor in the street took one look at bedraggled lil’ me and dragged me inside to outfit me with remarkably over-priced, unbearably unattractive, only marginally water-proof rain wellies. Worked good enough for me though, and I still love that man. Sadly, those wellies now live somewhere in a ravine in Jordan (yes, I did finally get my Harrison Ford moment…). As for the Egyptian Socks? They now live in Perth with me, ’cause you never know when you’ll end up in Israel and need to dress like this:

Yes, I am wearing every single thing I owned.
Yes, I am indeed wearing every single thing I owned. And yes, that is indeed motherfucking snow.
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2 thoughts on “Nina’s Travel Rule #39: Bloody Hell, Don’t Go to Israel in January

  1. The purpose of nagging you about changing your last name wasn’t to judge you for not changing your last name. It’s a common tactic that they use to test your consistency and see if you slip up on another topic.

    Like

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