Author Topic: Surviving a trip to Israel  (Read 4819 times)

Offline CandyGram4Mongo

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Surviving a trip to Israel
« on: February 22, 2017, 03:23:53 PM »
Took a trip to Tel Aviv & Jerusalem.  Had a bit of a scare at the Dome of the Rock and a lot of frustration (and a few laughs) w/Israeli Customs.  Here are some things I wish I had known:

1. If you're traveling on business to an Israeli-based company, see if you can acquire a MokDan from them.  Essentially, an Israeli company can vouch for you and save you a LOT of hassle when you're coming and going.  The MokDan is a sort of letter that says "he's with us, and we're pretty sure he's not a terrorist, and although he's probably hungover from partying with us he's not much of a threat."

2. Don't screw w/Israeli Customs at the airport.  I have taken my Bear Grylls Gerber belt through dozens of airports and nobody has said "boo."  Israeli Customs identified the compartment in the buckle and detained me until they laughingly concluded that the snarewire/fishing tackle wasn't a threat.  The point is, I've had enough flights to earn Companion Pass status on Southwest 2 of the last 3 years (>100 flights/year) and only the Israelis have flagged the hollow compartment in my belt-buckle.  You *may* be able to get a lot of stuff past the TSA, but it would be unwise to think you'll get it through Israeli Customs (so the guys discussing pepperspray in this thread http://thesurvivalpodcast.com/forum/index.php?topic=53565.msg709798#msg709798 would be wise to ensure that it's absent for travel to Israel).

3. Other things about Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv:
 - You get some sort of Customs ticket when you land in Israel (in lieu of a passport stamp).  Hang on to it.  You’ll probably need to show it on your way out of the country.
 - Israeli Customs will not process you any earlier than 3 hours before your flight’s scheduled departure.  Period.
 - The queue you must navigate is not well marked.  Right when you walk in there are several mobs close to the entrance.  At the entrance to each mob is an Israeli Customs human who will look over your paperwork and tell you if you’re in the wrong queue.  NOBODY in that f*ing place can tell you where you SHOULD be – only if you shouldn’t be in their queue or that you’re too early to be in any queue. 
 - All the mobs end with one or more Customs humans at a cluster of podiums.  They may ask you a variety of questions, but they will FOR SURE ask you if you’ve been in possession of your bag since you packed it.  If you say yes convincingly, no strip-search.  If you say no, there’s a pretty good chance you and your bag will become somebody’s project.
 - Once you’ve completed the mob queue you can go to the airline counter to check in, check luggage, whatever.  (You *may* be able to check luggage before the mob, but that wasn’t my experience).
 - After the counter you proceed deep into the bowels of the airport where you’ll do a screening that is very similar to TSA.  Then you can proceed to your gate.
 - Smiles and a humorous attitude seemed to play well.  Most everybody in the place is pretty up-tight, so I get the impression that anything leading to laughter or the chance to relax is fairly welcome.

4. GetTaxi app is better than Uber in Israel.  https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/gett-black-car-taxi/id449655162?mt=8

5. People speak many different languages.  English-speakers are *not* everywhere, so do yourself a favor and get addresses, hotel names, etc in hebrew before you go.  There were only 2 cabrides all week where I didn't have to show the driver a hebrew note of where I was trying to go.

6. Even in Tel Aviv there are parts of town that are abandoned by taxi companies after the working day.  Don't be the last man in the office.  If you gotta be, have a Hebrew-speaker arrange your ride home before the office clears out.

7. Their weekends are Friday and Saturday - Sunday is a working day.  The people with whom I worked flat out would not under any circumstances work on Friday or Saturday.

8. Jerusalem:
 - There are 12 gates into the Dome of the Rock compound.  Muslims are free to use all 12 at any time.  Non-Muslims are only allowed to use a specific gate during specific times. 
 - All gates are guarded at all times, and the IDF & some sort of Muslim honor guard get very twitchy if a non-Muslim so much as steps towards the entrance of the wrong gate. 
If you want to see Jerusalem, get a good guide.  I used Avraham and he quietly saved my bacon a few times ( www.avrahamtours.co.il ).  He does other tours, but I can only speak to Jerusalem.  GREAT tour, VERY knowledgeable guide, and he had his head on a swivel and saved me from myself several times.

9. Ride a camel.  I've been around the world twice and been to every amusement park and fair I could find.  Riding a camel in the tourist parking lot of the Mount of Olives was a real trip.  Words can't do it justice.  If you're prone to motion-sickness bring a bag.  It reminded me of being in a flat-bottomed LST during a typhoon in the South China sea.
Watch Lawrence of Arabia before and after.

10. Getting home.  You're probably not going to walk home.  There's a very good chance that every Israeli you meet has served in the IDF, and many of those guys have a pretty good feel for the difference between an isolated jihadi attack and the next intifada.  I had a code word established w/my wife to trigger a "stateside emergency".  Yup, if the next intifada hit, within minutes of me figuring that out I'd have a message from my wife informing me that I was needed at home immediately.  Before I went to bed each night I brought up a schedule of tomorrow's flights for a couple of different carriers.
It wasn't much of a plan, but I'm pretty sure it would have been able to GET OUT in less than 24 hours, with a fighting chance of beating the rush.

11. The usual international travel precautions apply. 
 - If your passport is within 6 months of expiring, you'll need to get a new one.  Do yourself a favor.  You have the option of getting a passport AND a "passport card" (driver's license-sized passport).  Get both. 
 - Keep the passport in some sort of secure pocket and keep the card in a different secure place (5.11 Tactical and Scott-E-Vests have shirts w/secure pockets).  Supposedly if you lose your passport you can use the card to prove your identity for travel and/or at the consulate.
 - The number one deal is to avoid being disrespectful.  I find that smiling goes a long way, but that's not always appropriate.  The first time you mock their culture or tell someone their cultural norms SUCK is probably the start of a very long day for you.  Be courteous, be polite, but do NOT be disrespectful.
 - There are a bunch of good translation/language apps.  Find some for where you're going.
 - Get your phone unlocked and contact your carrier to figure out how to cost-effectively manage calls and texts/data
 - Eyeball the State Department travel sites beforehand to get a sense of the threat condition.  Write down the address and contact info for the embassy and consulate(s).
 - If you've got special medical needs, have someone write a note describing your condition and required meds/treatments in the native language of your destination.  Have a copy in English too, because if you have to put down somewhere unexpected it's better to have it in English than not to have it
 - Americans are occasionally singled out overseas.  I've got a ballcap with a big Danish flag on it, and I practice asking "do you speak Danish?" in the language of where I'm going.  If the answer is yes I'm screwed, but when the answer is no, I'm then able to ask "do you speak English" and we go from there.  In the mean time, I've hopefully planted a seed of doubt or otherwise made myself less of a target.
Yeah, it's total BS, but the bottom line is that I want to get back to the US in one piece, and I don't mind leveraging my family's heritage to do that.
 - Jet-lag sux.  If you're not experienced with it, google recommendations and pick one you think will work.  I basically stay awake for the better part of 2 days (so I wake up, work part of the day, fly through the rest of my night while drinking tons of coffee, arrive as close to late-morning or early afternoon as I can, walk around like a wired zombie until some time after dinner, set my alarm, brew a cup of sleepytime tea and sleep for as close to 14 hours as I can).  I avoid naps or sleeping on the plane.  I want to be TIRED in the early evening of my new timezone, and I want to wake up feeling rested.

Offline RitaRose1945

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Re: Surviving a trip to Israel
« Reply #1 on: February 22, 2017, 04:07:10 PM »
Very interesting.

Offline surfivor

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Re: Surviving a trip to Israel
« Reply #2 on: February 22, 2017, 04:41:32 PM »
 I went to Israel in 1995. I would think things have changed a bit since then ..

We went to the places in the west bank that we should not have gone .. What happened at Dome of the Rock ?

 We went to the red sea, dead sea, sea of Galilee, numerous biblical sites such as hill of megido that Armageddon is based on etc  .. We went right up to the Syrian border, saw some tanks and heard rockets going off 

 We also hiked into Elijah's cave near mount Carmel where Elijah the prophet spent time

 We went on a Camel overnight near the red sea in Egypt

 It was a 2 week trip. One week was with a church guided trip and the other trip by ourselves

Offline Alan Georges

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Re: Surviving a trip to Israel
« Reply #3 on: February 22, 2017, 05:16:45 PM »
Good stuff, Mongo.  Thanks.

Offline CandyGram4Mongo

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Re: Surviving a trip to Israel
« Reply #4 on: February 22, 2017, 08:51:19 PM »
What happened at Dome of the Rock ?

The Infidel gate was closed the day I went.  My guide asked me if I wanted to try to have a look from a distance, looking through one of the other gates. 
So, we went to one of the Moslem-only gates in the Moslem Quarter.  The gate was at the top of a flight of stairs, so I started to climb the stairs.
A group of 5 IDF guys stopped smoking & joking on my right and started towards me while unslinging their rifles.
At the same time, a handful of some kind of muslim honor guard guys did the same on my left.
Avraham, my guide, spoke loudly to everyone in Hebrew and Arabic shortly before telling me very quietly that the stairs are considered part of the gate and we needed to leave now...

Afterwards, I had a long talk w/Avraham and one of my Israeli co-workers along the lines of "WTF?  Israelis fought and bled to re-take Jerusalem yet you let yourselves be treated like this by the *losers*?
They both said it was a workable peace.
I reckon they're right - I can't imagine how uptight the moslems get having infidels and jews walk around one of their holiest sites if they're ready to start trading bullets at the bottom of a flight of stairs...

We went to the red sea, dead sea, sea of Galilee, numerous biblical sites such as hill of megido that Armageddon is based on etc  .. We went right up to the Syrian border, saw some tanks and heard rockets going off 

 We also hiked into Elijah's cave near mount Carmel where Elijah the prophet spent time

That sounds great!  I only had a single day available for tourism, so I picked Jerusalem.  It was one of the most thought-provoking days of my life.  Avraham knows everything there is to know in the way of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim history and holy books, and he's a great storyteller.  If I get a chance to go back I'll engage him again and see more...

We went on a Camel overnight near the red sea in Egypt
What did you think of the camel ride?

Offline surfivor

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Re: Surviving a trip to Israel
« Reply #5 on: March 03, 2017, 09:11:17 AM »
Quote
What did you think of the camel ride?

 The camel ride was good, an Arab took us into the desert. The camels kept stopping to eat plants and the Arab guy constantly wiped them and yelled at them to get them to keep moving. He walked along while we where each on a camel ..

 We where in Nablus in the west bank, we stopped in the town to get some lunch. We thought we could find some falafel to eat. In what appeared to be the town square, Palestinians pelted the car with rocks causing a great deal of damage. This happened at a stop light so I took off from the intersection. As we where driving a huge rock shattered the windshield. We ended up in an area where there was a big crowd. The car was a rental and had telaviv plates .. We could have been killed. I was praying the whole time. If you experienced what we did you would have expected you where going to die .. At one point the car was stopped and surrounded by Palestinians who where rocking the car and blocking the way out while yelling something in Arabic. I remember there was this big huge guy standing right in front of the car looking straight at us and very angry with his hands folded across his chest. I was driving and my sister was with me. She actually as I recall to have wanted me to just drive over people and get out of there, but I just sat there shaking and praying until 3 Palestinian men in business suits got in the back seat and asked us what we where doing there and helped diffuse the situation.

 Apparently since the car had telaviv plates people suspected we where Jewish settlers. I recall at first my sister was yelling that we where Canadians but when she realized we had American passports she instead started yelling that we where not Jews

The Israeli government handles all damage to rental cars due to intifada so we did not have to pay anything. They do not want to hurt tourism so no one warned us about staying out of certain areas .. The rocks that where thrown are also all limestone typical to the area and not heavy granite ..

I wanted to see Jacobs well which is a site mentioned in the bible and it is in the west bank but we did not realize the danger of being there. We never made it to Jacobs Well but drove straight back to Telaviv as our plane was to depart the following day back to the states. As we where driving I kept looking in the rear view mirror to see if we where being followed. The Palestinian police invited us to come to the police station and file a report but we just wanted to leave the area and declined the offer

 At other times on the TV since we got back we have seen riots and violence in Nablus on the TV

 Later when I told the story to people at my mothers church they all seemed to think as if we where saved by three angelic beings who got into the back seat on that day .. In some ways it seems like it was a dumb thing to have been there tho

 Other than that the trip was good and for the week before we where with a church group led by a bible scholar, who was a professor at a college in the area. He took us around to various holy sites and I was able to impress him with my knowledge of the bible because I am familiar with the many stories and places mentioned in the old testament .. We also visited some crusader castles and places such as akko (Acre)

 As far as your comments about the Dome of the Rock. We where there also and many places around the old city. I got up at 3 in the morning and left the hotel and walked a mile or so to the old city of Jerusalem. The Dome of the Rock is a very important site to Mulsims and some say it is more important than Mecca so I have heard

 I know enough to realize that many Muslims are very serious and dedicated to what they believe etc .. I also think they are often manipulated as well however by the powers that be in certain ways to channel their energies in certain directions


« Last Edit: March 03, 2017, 09:45:53 AM by surfivor »

Offline surfivor

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Re: Surviving a trip to Israel
« Reply #6 on: March 03, 2017, 09:56:15 AM »
Why is Jerusalem important to the Muslims?

https://www.reference.com/world-view/jerusalem-important-muslims-26bf843fbedbe540

Jerusalem is important to Muslims because it is believed that the Prophet Muhammad ascended to the heavens from Jerusalem after being taken there from Mecca. Muslims also faced Jerusalem in prayer instead of Mecca because of its connection to Moses, Abraham, Jesus and other prophets.

..

Muhammad did not believe that he was creating a new religion. Instead, he felt that he was furthering the religion created by earlier prophets. Because he felt that Islam shared the same theological lineage as Christianity and Judaism, Jerusalem symbolized a connection between those faiths. Muslims also believe that Muhammad met the past prophets and led them in prayer in Jerusalem, which helped to give it context within the broader tradition of monotheism.

Muhammad said that Muslims should visit the Sacred Mosque in Mecca, the mosque in Medina and Masjid al-Aqsa, which means the furthest Mosque, in Jerusalem. This has helped Muslims to continually hold Jerusalem in high esteem.

Jerusalem was captured by Muslims in 637, who made it the chief shrine of Islam after Mecca. The Dome of the Rock was constructed in the city between 688 and 691 on the site where Muslims believe that Muhammad ascended to the heavens.


==========

Important Sites: The Dome of the Rock

https://insideislam.wisc.edu/2012/02/important-sites-the-dome-of-the-rock/

The entire area is referred to as Al-Haram Al-Sharif, the Noble Sanctuary, and is sacred to Muslims because the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven from that area during the Night Journey. The Dome of the Rock is probably more widely recognized than Al-Aqsa because of its architecture. The focus of this post, the fourth in a series on important sites, is the Dome of the Rock.


The Dome of the Rock was initially constructed in 691 C.E., 55 years after Muslims had captured Jerusalem. It is one of the earliest Islamic buildings. The Umayyad caliph Abd al-Malik Marwan ordered its building. The Dome of the Rock has an octagonal base and is topped with a golden dome. The outside of the base is covered with beautiful tile; the inside is decorated with mosaics and Qur’anic inscriptions. The Dome of the Rock has been renovated several times, but it still retains its distinct design.

This structure is important not only because of  its location in Al-Haram Al-Sharif but also because it represents the beginning of a distinct Islamic visual style. Pictures of Jerusalem are dominated by this golden domed structure. The Dome of the Rock set a very high standard for Islamic architecture in the centuries that followed and it continues to represent an architectural achievement.

Offline surfivor

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Re: Surviving a trip to Israel
« Reply #7 on: March 03, 2017, 10:12:57 AM »
Here is the statue of Elijah on mount Carmel in Israel. My sister thought the whole thing sounded violent and bloody as the tour guide explained that story in the bible. I however have always greatly liked that bible passage and the courage and warrior spirit of Elijah and how he fought against the false religions of his day. Jews hold Elijah in special honor and John the Baptist was like the reincarnation of Elijah at least according to Yogananda ..
 


Here is the cave near mount Carmel where Elijah probably hid out for a long time as he had many enemies, though there is also a cave near Haifa with a shrine in it dedicated to Elijah





Here is another place that stuck in my mind, Tabgha church on the sea of Galilee. I believe these mosiac floors may be very ancient. We attended a service there at this church with singing etc




This fish mosiac in the same church is also quite old and represents the historical accounts of jesus miraculously feeding 5000 with the two fishes and loaves at that spot




Wikipedia on the Tabgha church

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Church_of_the_Multiplication

The earliest recording of a church commemorating Jesus' feeding of the five thousand is by the Spanish pilgrim Egeria circa AD 380.

"Not far away from there (Capernaum) are some stone steps where the Lord stood. And in the same place by the sea is a grassy field with plenty of hay and many palm trees. By them are seven springs, each flowing strongly. And this is the field where the Lord fed the people with the five loaves and two fishes. In fact the stone on which the Lord placed the bread has now been made into an altar. Past the walls of this church goes the public highway on which the Apostle Matthew had his place of custom. Near there on a mountain is a cave to which the Savior climbed and spoke the Beatitudes."
5th-century church

The church was significantly enlarged around the year 480, with floor mosaics also added at this time. These renovations are attributed to the Patriarch Martyrius of Jerusalem.   In AD 614 Persians destroyed the Byzantine church.

19th-20th-century rediscovery
After the AD 614 destruction, the exact site of the shrine was lost for some 1,300 years. In 1888 the site was acquired by the German Catholic Society for Palestine (Palästina-Verein der Katholiken Deutschlands) which was associated with the Archdiocese of Cologne. An initial archaeological survey was conducted in 1892, with full excavations beginning in 1932. These excavations resulted in the discovery of mosaic floors from the 5th-century church, which was also found to be built on the foundations of a much smaller 4th-century chapel.
 
..

One of the main highlights of the church are its restored 5th-century mosaics. These are the earliest known examples of figurative floor mosaics in Christian art in the Holy Land. The mosaics in the two transepts depict various wetland birds and plants, with a prominent place given to the lotus flower. This flower, which is not indigenous to the area, suggests the artist's use of a Nilotic landscape popular in Roman and Early Byzantine art. All the other motifs depict plants and animals from the Galilee. The mosaic found in front of the altar depicts two fish flanking a basket containing four loaves of bread.
« Last Edit: March 03, 2017, 10:42:10 AM by surfivor »

Offline surfivor

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Re: Surviving a trip to Israel
« Reply #8 on: March 06, 2017, 09:04:58 AM »
Thank you for sharing this in-depth info about those significant places on the bible. These places worth visiting even once in a lifetime.

Sure ..

 We also visited the hill of Megido which is what Armageddon is based on because it has strategic military importance and where armies would converge and where they always did in ancient times. This has been the location of numerous battles. The picture of the hill below shows all the archeological dig sites as this hill was always inhabited and often had military fortifications I believe


http://www.biblewalks.com/Sites/armaggedon.html

The ancient city of Megiddo is located 30Km south east of Haifa, and is located at a strategic entrance through the eastern Carmel/Manasseh  hills where an ancient trade road (Via Maris). In this site an important City once flourished, and mentioned in the Old Testament as a strong City that played an important role in the history of the Biblical Israel. 


   The hills behind the Tel (mound) are in the south, right next to the Tel. These hills can be called Har-Megeddon, the source of the name of Armageddon. The hills  actually are a lower eastern extension of Mount Carmel. This section is called Manasseh mountains, and they continue on towards the great depression of the Jordan valley. This mountain ridge presented a problem in ancient times, since the passage south had to climb up the mountains. There were only few passages, and Megiddo was one of them - a sort of gate keeper.


In Revelation 16 is a description of the end of the age, and the last battle being fought at Armageddon between the forces of good and the forces of evil. The text: (16:16): "And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon".

 

   In Hebrew the place can be interpreted as "Har-Megiddo", where Har is mountain or hill, and Megiddo is the ancient site of Tel Megiddo.

One of the earliest recorded battles occurred south of Megiddo. In 1468BC the Egyptian Pharaoh Thutmose III won a decisive battle against the revolting Canaanite cities, headed by the King of Megiddo. After 7 more months of siege the city was lost. The result was a capture of 119 cities in the land of Israel, as displayed in the Egyptian temples in Karnack. The victory over the Canaanites also resulted in the Egyptian conquest of Canaan for 350 years. The important battle echoed through the centuries, and was probably the reason this area was selected.
 




Offline CandyGram4Mongo

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Re: Surviving a trip to Israel
« Reply #9 on: March 15, 2017, 06:23:03 PM »
Great posts Surf!  +1