We went to Israel for 9 days in November of 1996. Why, you ask, "the complicated transactions" moniker? You sort of have to be there and look at it through the eyes of a foreigner. You will see people yelling at each other on top of their lungs for 10 minutes, and then shake hands and walk away. You will hear, see and smell the bazaars in the Arab Quarter in the Old City, and be unable to shake the hassling teenagers trying to sell you trinkets. You will be looked upon in a very strange manner, whilst your wife is purchasing 3 $10 bracelets from a shop without bargaining down the prices. The dilemma here is two-fold. First, your wife buys stuff as you silently watch? Second did they really underpriced their stuff so much that the damn buyers do not feel the need to bargain, As later explained by locals, the store owner will not sleep at night thinking about this second point. Conclusion: Make everything more complicated than it needs to be. More important conclusion: BARGAIN!
Israel is also very different in its approach to tourism in the North and in the South. Actually, there is no South. There is a single town, Eilat, which is a small Red Sea resort stuck at the very tip of Israel on the boarder with Egypt and Jordan. The water was warm, the sun was up, and we thoroughly needed a break after 6 days of heavy-duty sightseeing. So, we spent 3 days at Eilat, swimming, scuba diving, parasailing and gawking at the topless German babes (don't ask). Eilat is quite a tourist trap, but in November the Germans are the only tourists there and very few locals are to be found. However, those locals that are there are influential types. As an aside, a cellular phone is somehow the current status symbol in Israel. So, it was not uncommon to see a couple walking down the boardwalk, holding hands, each talking on the cell phone. Whether they're talking to each other was not determined :-)
Jerusalem, Arab Quarter. The houses are small and look disheveled, but the TV antennas are everywhere, piercing the sky. The old meets new in this ancient city...
Not only old meets new, the war clearly meets the peace in this country. So, the laundry can apparently coexist with the barbed wire on a nice sunny November day.
The further north you go, the more bizarre things you are bound to see. This unexplained object was photographed from the car on a road near Haifa.
Farther North, the Golan Heights begin. The side roads get really neat, there is barbed wire everywhere. Periodically you see and A1M1 Abrams tank ripping through at 40mph parallel to the highway. Consequently, this is the car we spent 8 days with, Mazda 121. Small but very nice, got us through the mountains and through the desert.
As I said, Golan Heights are full of surprises. Read the sign I'm standing next to. This is for real. Consequently, they are seriously afraid of terrorists, and with a good reason. Your purse WILL be searched when entering a mall, for example, you WILL be asked a million questions at the airport. You get used to it quick, but it's strange for Americans at first. For Israelis it's a part of everyday life.
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