Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Let's yalla, habibis- we're off to Israel!

Sure, the feeling had been creeping up for some time now. The darkness was getting me down. The cold was getting unbearable. It felt like nothing was going on. I just had to get away.

Fully aware of the limits of my schedule I knew I couldn't get away for too long, so the plan was to seek solace somewhere in Europe. Even as I was waving my credit card around at my laptop I swear I had every intention to find flights to Jerez and continue my love affair with Andalusia.

But even stronger than the allure of Sherry Country was the allure of discovering a new country; the rush that only visiting somewhere new for the very first time gives. So, I was actually planning on going to Uzbekistan instead, but that option fell through owing to the time-consuming challenges of visa application process. At some point I even found myself toying with the idea of checking out one of those idyllic Christmas markets, though it's every bit as dark and cold there, right? And I don't even celebrate Christmas!

Then, one night as I was scrolling through flights I went on some kind of an autopilot and before my left hand had time to figure out what my right one was up to, I'd clicked "buy". Destination: Tel Aviv-Yafo.  Which isn't in Europe or in a new country. And at some point the length of my trip had managed to double. Oy, vey.

(And the people on How I met Your Mother had the chutzpah to claim nothing good ever happens after 2am...!)

Well, what's a girl to do. It's clearly not one of the hottest tickets right now: at cheapest it's possible to snap up return flights from Helsinki to Tel Aviv for mere €217. Though... that does involve flying Air Ukraine via Kiev. Which is exactly what I'm about to do.

(Perhaps those people on How I met Your Mother were actually onto something?)

Oh, Israel. 

Amazing and aggravating. Exciting and exhausting. Fascinating and frustrating. Incredible and insufferable. All that and then some. And yet I find myself going back over and over again. 

My Israel is falafel and hummus. History that's so uniquely and tangibly present everywhere you look. People dancing in a disco around a pile of machine guns. Baobab trees, which (after the buzz wears off in the morning) are not necessarily baobab trees at all. Nargiles happily bubbling away. Intense debates at the end of which the only thing people agree on is that it's time to start a new one. Endless beaches. Nights that continue well into the morning. Bomb shelters, black humour and dancing to Kool and The Gang's Celebration. More falafel and hummus. 

The intoxicating scent of wild rosemary that fills the air as day turns into night. Temperatures that even in the shade only go below 40° after 8pm. 

A French poet who thinks romance means playing saxophone at a cemetery in the middle of the night. Man in snake skin boots and a cowboy hat who keeps popping up when you least expect it:"you good for Shabbat? You've got a place for Shabbat? You want me to hook you up with a place for Shabbat?" Messiahs at the street corners, preaching apocalypse. Hassidics bursting out from the back of a van at traffic lights, blasting techno music and breaking hysterically energetic dance routine. Even more falafel and hummus. Always more hummus. 

Israel is a bewildering country full of contrasts that never ceases to amaze me. 

Occasionally it's impossibble to know whether art imitates life or the other way around. One day during my studies in Haifa, we were watching a movie about the first Lebanon war, blissfully unaware that a mere week later the army would arrive to evacuate us from the midst of the second one. As part of one training I watched a movie that finished with a scene of suicide bomber getting ready for his mission, walking on a street I knew so well; a street that housed my friends' bar that had been a target of one of those attacks. 

To me Israel is dreams that came true and those I'm still struggling to let go of. A country quite like no other. 

Don't forget to join me on InstagramTwitter and Facebook. So far the itinerary includes Jaffa, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Akko, possibly Nazareth, hopefully a couple of wineries... and some surprises.

But now, habibis, let's yalla! Israel awaits!!!




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