9th, June, my first journey began. From Bratislava, Slovakia to Tel Aviv, Israel.
The very first time I know more about Jewish and Judaism is when the time I was traveling in China. I visited the place by hitchhiking in Doucheng-Arding, Sichuan. There, I met a couple from Israel, with couples of Tibetans as the owner of the guest house.
With the hospitality of the family, we were invited for dinner with them. For those who don't know about the food culture in Tibetan District in Sichuan, basically they still have the same culture - dough with spicy sauces and yak - a kind of cattle in Tibet - soup.
They were thrilled to be invited but I could sense something was off from their face.
Later on, I realized that they are religious and follow "Kosher", which means all the meat and milk have to be separated cooked or seasoned. At the meantime, in Tibet, they don't have "Kosher" of course, so they asked me in English and I asked the family in Chinese to see if they cook everything mixed.
Well, who cares? The family here doesn't really understand the meanings behind so the Israeli couple just stayed away from those looked suspicious.
The very next day is Friday, we were discussing the plans for tomorrow. I said to them I'll travel to somewhere else by bus.
"Can we go with you? To share the bus."
"Sure. It's better to have more people."
"Do you know when we will arrive?"
"No ideas, when the bus is full, we would leave the town."
The very next day, when we were waiting for other people to come to share the bus, by the time getting close to noon, the couples seem a bit off again.
"Hey, Yen. Could you tell them that we should leave?"
"But the bus is not full yet."
"Maybe we should find a taxi or something."
"But it will be more expensive, which I don't want to pay."
"If half an hour more, we will go for taxi."
At then, I just don't understand and I didn't even try to ask. Just felt weird to travel with them.
Luckily, within 15 minutes, two people came to the driver and said they would also want to travel to that town as well.
The Israeli couple were jumping around the bus and kept saying finally we are going.
As traveling in China, things are not predictable. The bus would stop for no reasons and every time when the bus stopped again and driver went out the bus, they seemed pissed off.
"Chilled, guys! What's the matter?"
"Can you ask them why they are keeping stopping the car?"
"I don't know."
"Ask them in Chinese, please."
Being annoyed, I didn't even try to ask the questions, just sat there and told the drivers those foreigners are trying to get to the town as soon as possible.
Finally, we arrived, and they said to me:
"OK, Yen. We need to find a hotel immediately. See you on Sunday morning."
And Poooh, they were gone in a sec.
"What's wrong with this couple?..."
Time flashes back.
I have prepared to get "interrogated" by the Israeli Customs and security.
The reason is that if you have one Islamic country's visa in the passport, they will ask you tons of questions and keep you waiting for couple of hours.
According to the internet, it is ok to have those visas to visit Israel. Vice versa but not the same benefit, once you have Israeli stamp in your passport, you are not allowed to enter any Islamic countries.
Jordan and Egypt have much better relationship than other countries with Israel, not sure about these two but for sure most of the Islamic countries would deny your entry because of this.
Anyway, flew to Tel Aviv is quite ok. But before you even entered to the security check before the transit flight in Istanbul, you are checked already.
The equipment for sensing the bomb/metal/electricity is there for you before entering the flight. I was like, "seriously?"
My flight to Ben Gurion airport is around 22:30.
|Welcome to Israel|
Everyone is in the queue for checking and stamping.
The guy who checked my passport was so surprising after viewing some of the pages.
"You've been to Afghanistan?"
"Yes, two years ago."
By more pages were being viewed, he started to call the personnel in another room and the other girl asked the other guy in another room.(It looks like a stair but horizontal way)
"OK, Sir, wait a moment."
What I have expected is finally here.
"Sir, please go to the room. The guy behind you will lead you."
Without any notice, there was a guy standing behind my back already.
(Of course, in my mind I kept asking "seriously?")
Then I was led to a room with Hollywood pop songs playing at the time.
Sat there for around 15 minutes, I was called by a security girl.
"Hi, How are you today?"
"Fine. Just bit tired from the trip."
"OK, follow me."
"So, tell me"
This was always the beginning of the sentences.
To put long questions short, basically this is what I've answered.
My father and my grandfather's names(which I have never met my grandfather)
My itinerary details of every country I have visited, especially Afghanistan. To the details like what did I see there for attractions
My favorite cities in those countries and the reason "why"
Have I met friends there? Names, cities, how did we meet, what had I said, what did I do, etc..
Man, if you ask me what a consultant does in travel agency, this is what I do there and I'll charge this girl for overtime if she kept asking.
Basically, all the answers I have, she's not interested at all. Believe me, the most lame face I have ever encountered when people listening to my stories.
2 hours and same-questions-bothering later.
I got dismissed and was told to wait outside of the office.
15 minutes more, I got my Blue ticket with entry stamp on it with my passport back.
"Welcome to Israel!"
Oh my goodness, the most AMAZING experience EVER!
|Balloons on the ceiling, at Ben Gurion airport|
Around 2:30 am, I got out the security check and to the lobby of the airport.
No buses were running at the moment, didn't make any sense to travel now to any city, I chose to stay at the airport overnight and heading to my dream destination - Jerusalem the very next morning.
I see people are waiting outside of the gate, keep tiptoing to see if they could see something behind the gate.
Every moment the gate opened, there would be screaming of someone's name and the next moment you see, is the most touched hugs I have ever seen at the airport. It's like that person has never come back to Israel.
Later on, I realize, it's more than reunion or memories, it's more about the histories and the bonds between the family members that bring them to the statue these days.
All those balloons were supposed to be as presents but I saw people when they are seeing the person they are waiting for is coming out of the gate, they would run to the person and forgot the present at hands, then touched the ceiling and never got down.
The next morning, I tried to find the way to get to Jerusalem.
"Where are you going?"
I kinda brought those "senses" back. When people are trying to help you, there are two major kinds: One is they see you as a foreigner; the other is they see you as a friend.
The guy on the bus saw me wandering and looked like not knowing what to do and asked the questions.
"Well, I'm looking for the bus to Jerusalem."
"This is not the bus."
"Can you tell me where it is?"
He led to the directions which I thought it's not the right way.
"I think it's not the right way."
"Yes, it's the way. The bus is there."
"No, I guess I'll stay here. Thanks for your help."
The guy seemed to try to pull me but then I turned back and stayed at the same place to read the board.
"All in Hebrew..." I murmured.
After 5 minutes, a bus with a sign"Egged" and I saw the same sign at the stop.
"Is this the bus to Jerusalem?" I approached to the driver.
"Jerusalem? No, but it is the bus to junction."
"So no Jerusalem?"
"Yes Jerusalem. Bus go to the junction and then Jerusalem."
"OK, should I pay now?"
"You can pay here or another bus, the same price."
One of the things travel taught me, when you have not opened the wallet and handed out the money, you are the master of the business.
"OK, I'll pay on another bus."
First sunrise on the far end of the land, that is where I am heading, the Holy Land of three major revealed religions - Christianity Islam Judaism.
The city with histories which starts the blood and truth seeking wars.
|Jerusalem skyline from the hostel|
It was the perfect time to visit Jerusalem. The most confusing time for travelers who to seek the truth of the world is going to change their mind because of the city under their feet.