Food, drink, film and other random thoughts from The Lone Star State.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Welcome To Israel

Before I start I just wanted to give the hugest of thanks to my cousin Marnina. She planned our whole trip meticulously, arm-wrestled all the hotels and sights into discounts, acted as translator, security and transportation, as well as opening up her home for 3 people, two of whom she had never met. Todah, we could not have done it without you!

Cousin Marnina @ the Bedouin Market, Be'er Sheva

The El Al flight from JFK to Tel Aviv is a surprisingly short 10 hours. I managed to sleep across the Atlantic so I felt surprisingly refreshed when we landed. If you've never flown on El Al, its quite the experience. First, all the announcements are in Hebrew (followed by a heavily accented English), the ultra-orthodox will gather in the back of the plane near the bathroom to pray and everyone claps at the landing. I chose El Al for one simple reason: I wanted a Hebrew speaking pilot flying the plane and communucating with the Hebrew speaking air traffic control in Israel. Sure, they speak English pretty well in Israel but putting my ass on the ground is so not the time I want some mistranslation of language.

(Special Random Note: El Al does profiling, so get ready to be questioned -- its invasive but politely so.)

Ok, we're here!

Ben Gurion Airport

Nothing special; its big, modern and could be anywhere. Except everything is in Hebrew. Oh and it smelled like yummy Turkish coffee!

What to do first? Duh, eat! I had told cousin I wanted to try a Shawarma place, so thats what we did. It was a little town on the way to Be'er Sheva from Tel Aviv.

Wow! I've tried all the Shawarma I could find in Dallas but nothing compares to the real thing. First, they add preserved lemon, pickles and olives to the pita - nice. The other surprising thing was that the meat is turkey not lamb. Who knew? Then shawarma guy topped off my pita with homemade french fries - cool! I went on overload with the 300 side dishes that come with the shawarma. I know this was the equivalent of a fast food restaurant experience for cousin but I thought it was very special!

Shawarma Place in Gadera

Afterwards we got settled into cousin's place then it was off to get Jim some clothes since El Al had "misplaced" my luggage. We went to BIG, thats the name of the shopping complex in Be'er Sheva. But I smelled coffee along the way, then recongized the Hebrew word for coffee on a sign. Obviously there was a stop for me, the coffee whore.

Puppet does Arcaffe

Puppet is a little treat we got on Halloween day in some place at the Dallas airport. Puppet was our mascot for the trip. Stay tuned for puppet goes to the police station, puppet gets nausea on the elevator ride to the top of Azrieli tower, puppet floats in the dead sea and a very special - puppet explores gluttony in a Moroccan restaurant.

Afterwards Jim went shopping. I liked two things: everything was half the price of what I had paid in the states for the same thing. And most importantly, everything was open until midnight on a Thursday.

Gotta love this place.

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Blogger JC said...

Yep, my favorite place in Germany was Donner Kabob fast food places. I actually converted all the family. There is a little stand in Austin now on 8th and Red River now....when ever my son goes downtown to listen to the bands - he always makes a stop there..

12:57 AM

Blogger Jim said...

Oh no, I wish I hadnt read that, now I will have to make a trip to Austin :)

6:01 AM

Blogger Michael said...

Your cousin sounds like a real gem... But blood is thicker than water.

Shouks, like the one in the picture, are a real blast. There's nothing like that in the States.

El Al is an experience. And the only way to come to Israel, because Israel starts at the departure gate, not the arrival.

The profiling is actually unobtrusive, and professional in manner. So much better than US airport security.

Ben Gurion Airport... That photo is the new terminal, open for about 6 or 7 years, I think. The old terminal's, er, not as nice.

And you haven't lived till you've had street shwarma. Just not before 11am; the meat needs time to cook.

Ah, an Israeli coffee shop chain. Like Starbucks, but kosher, and with good coffee.

And about stores staying open to midnight, don't forget that you were in Tel Aviv. In Karmiel, they close by 9pm.

It's the difference between New York, NY, and Niles, Michigan.

2:50 PM

Blogger Jim said...

Youre right Michael, I will try the street shawarma next time but I have to say the counter shawarma was much better than what we get here. (I did try street falafel though :)

If they had Arcaffe T shirts, Id buy one (cant say the same for Starbucks) - what great coffee!

Oh, we werent in Tel Aviv, we were in Beer Sheva for midnight shopping. I think they stay open late for the outrageous number of college students. Who knows!

10:10 PM

Blogger Michael said...

I didn't know you were in Beer Sheva for the shopping. My point still holds, though Beer Sheva has 100,000+ people, and is the 5th or 6th largest city in Israel, plus it's a gov't center, and has a major university. All of that tends to keep stuff open!

Street falafel rocks. And like you said, it does have to be juggled.

11:57 PM

Blogger Jim said...

Right Michael! And I was surprised at the number of people at Arcaffe late on a Thursday night.

7:02 AM


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