Praise The Lord! I have arrived at my destination in Jerusalem - with me and all my bags intact. It all went smoothly. Everything "with ease ". Going through customs was a breeze. I was able to exchange money at the ATM, got my phone, and the "group cab" - which was inexpensive and took me right to my bed and breakfast -and I am settled in my room, which is cozy. My room is older and basic, but private, has its own bathroom ... and is definitely a deal, for Jerusalem. The bed and breakfast is under new ownership - and after this reservation, which I made in August, the price will triple! So - yes - I got a deal ... and I am very thankful to have lodging which includes breakfast at less than $35 USD a night.
The ATM was a bit finicky to begin with ... and wouldn't take my debit card from Canada - and I panicked for a moment, thinking, how will I get cash?
And then a gent walked past me and said "It's working now!" And - it was. Whew!
The cab I took is called the "Nesher" taxi, which is like a van, and takes about a dozen people to their addresses in Jerusalem ... and is quite inexpensive, about $25 from the airport to your address in Jerusalem. After leaving the main hall where the taxi's are - you look to your right, go about 100 meters, and there they are. They are yellow and white, and the drivers figure out what the best groupings are - and load up a group - and away you go!
I arranged a SIM card for my IPhone ahead of time with Global Cellular - which has a kiosk at the airport for pick-up and drop-off, and has a big green sign with the word MOBILE.
The cost, with insurance, is about $5 per day ... and I appreciate that others come in less expensive ... but I was looking for full service, and that is what I am getting. They exchanged the sim for me, recharged my drained power, counselled me on my plug set-up being fine, and I have already benefitted from 2 calls to their Israeli Customer Service Number, with help to know how to call "just the right number sequence" to connect with my Canadian friends. I am not sure I would have figured it all out without some help. So I am pleased with their service. When pre-ordering, you can choose from a variety of plans.
The Bed and Breakfast I am at is called Allenby 2, in the Romema district of Jerusalem, and I find it lovely. I was looking for homey and family-oriented ... centrally-located ... inexpensive ... and people to enjoy breakfast with. The previous owner ... I don't know how he did it all these years ... kept his prices super-low ... and I think this must have been his focus in life, to do that - and he probably functioned "at cost" in order to benefit travellers. But his era has ended - and those prices that I booked in for have necessarily changed. The new couple who have purchased ... they are going to need to make some money, as I am sure they have a mortgage or renting arrangement - and they have a growing family ... so the prices are now increased and are comparable to other bed and breakfasts. The new couple are Nir and Dahlia.
Regardless ... I can recommend Allenby 2. It is older, nothing fancy at all ... but spotlessly clean, an adequate breakfast, and I have met the missus and she is a nice lady!
I haven't been out and about in the neighbourhood as yet or explored much at all - but I definitely am "centrally-located" ... lots of people sounds all around me, easy access to public transport - and I think I will find there are several more really good things about this location, as well.
It feels safe! And that is most important. And I have a nice fan system in my room ... and in the Middle East, that is super important, too.
I had been anguishing over whether I made a good choice of "where" to stay ... and now that I am here, it does seem a very good one after all, and I am pleased. As evening draws nigh ... the sounds around me are diminishing too ... and I think this location might even be peaceful and restful, as well as inexpensive.
It was a wonderful plane trip from Toronto to Tel Aviv! My heart was swelling with good emotion, because I was experiencing Jewish community and neighbourhood, right on the plane! Surely what I witnessed there is what the Jewish customs of kibbutz and Shabbat are about .... family, community, God.
There were many young families on that flight ... and watching the Jewish dads with the infants/children was heartwarming. Really, it was. I knew they were Jewish dads because of their clothing - which I enjoyed seeing. I liked the distinction of their large-brimmed black hats, and white shirts and tassels, and well-groomed beards ... and, as a group, these men were the most involved-with-their-children dads that I have seen in a very long time. I don't say that to discount the moms, who were less visible and generally very busy with the newest infant family member ... but I have to say that these dads are more visibly involved than what I normally see, in Canada, and all of them were involved like that. It seems their cultural norm.
There were about a half-dozen families right in my area of the plane ... and the dads were calmly, lovingly, and willingly taking toddlers for little aisle walks, holding and rocking and snuggling infants, and going for diaper changes. The moms, of course, were involved too ... but I am trying to express that these dads knew what they were doing!
And the children were noisy! There was an abundance of kid sounds the entire flight ... and I loved it! I loved it because the day I flew happened to be "Holocaust Memorial Day" and the sounds of children, of this vibrancy of life and family ... in my mind, this was an antithesis to that whole hollocaust era. The enemy of the Jewish soul had not won ... as these families are growing and growing and growing! Among the Orthodox Jewish communities, the population doubles every 20 years. :). And ... as I could see here - with health!
The hour after supper was spontaneously delightful. It was a very nice supper, as far as airplanes go ... and there was a contentment that rested upon us all - and parents and children formed little clusters and conversations buzzed ... it was like being at a neighbourhood block party. It was wonderful!! That after-supper-hour contentment rested upon me, too, satisfying me even in my singleness with a sense of God and "family". These are prayerful men ... and certainly were conducting themselves as promise keepers; as faithful God-fearing husbands and fathers. In the morning, these dads were unpacking their prayer shawls, and looking for a place to pray ... and then packing up double strollers ... and visibly delighting themselves in their sons and daughters. Kisses abounded, and the babies thrilled to it! The natural affection between father and child was so beautiful to enjoy. This love and nurturing seemed not to be for special days ... but every day ... a way of life! And I kept thinking ... wow ... these children of the parents, here, these children are going to grow up confident and capable. These ones are going to thrive under the assurance and encouragement and safety of their papa. I have learned that a child's relationship with their dad strongly influences their concept of God. These children will have a good concept!
I was blessed to see it ... this expression of joy of family, and this triumphal restoration of the wholeness and wholesomeness of the traditional family.
This was especially poignant and meaningful to me after the dark cloud of the Hollocaust ... which attempted to destroy every sound of the joy of family - but couldn't and didn't.
And that was day 1 - a very good start to my very first visit to Israel!