Thursday, 9 February 2012

Israel and Palestinian Territories 1

I mentioned on Christmas Day that I was heading off to Israel. Well, that was over a month a go so I thought I'd better get around to blogging about it. It's amazing how quickly your memory of trips gets muddled and jumbled. Fortunately, I made notes whilst there, so I could remember when I came to blog about it.

If you just want to see some pretty pictures here are my photos:

The Flight and border control
My parents and I got up at some ridiculously early hour (I think about quarter to five) to get to the airport. We dropped our car off, checked in and got breakfast. Then we were called to board. All the passengers were crammed into this small room, and you could definitely tell we were going to be going to Israel. There was a scramble to get on the plane and I ended up sitting on my own (much to my relief). Then about half-way through the flight there was an announcement that the men could conduct prayers at the back of the plane, the woman at the front. It was a really surreal experience, to be a mile or so in the sky and watching men in kippas and black hats and coats swaying back and forth among the overpriced peanuts and soggy sandwiches.

We arrived in Ben Gurion airport and then our troubles started. As soon as we entered the terminal building I was spotted by border control personnel. She asked if she could ask me a few questions, and when my parents joined me she seemed to decide to keep it perfunctory and let us go to the next bit. We queued at the little booths and we finally reached it to be quizzed by a woman with broken English. She asked us questions, like "Why are you here?" (As tourists), "Do you have any family in Israel?", (My brother. He's been here since September), "Where are you meeting him?" (Jerusalem), "Where does he live?" (Nablus), "What is he doing?" (teaching English), "What's his date of birth?" (6th February 1988. The same as mine; we're twins).

Then she asked, "What is your father's name?" I thought she was talking to me, so I said, "Martyn. It's there in the passport." Then she looked at my dad and repeated the question. There was a pause. We gave each other a sideways glance. After a while I said, "Stephen Charles Ashmead". She may have thought we were trying to hide something, but we were just confused. My dad's dad has been dead for quite a few years now. She looked at us. She picked up the phone. She put the phone down, got out the booth and asked us to follow her. She took us to a side room, and told me to tell my parents to wait there. She then took me to another side room on the other side of the border control forecourt. After about a minute, she returned, said sorry and took me back to the room with my parents. We waited about half-an-hour and then my dad was taken into another room on his own. The door was left open so I could hear the clicking of a computer keyboard and a string of questions, "What do you do for a living? What does your wife do? What does your son Stephen do? What does your other son do?" After about fifteen minutes of this we were allowed to go.

My bed for a week

We took a taxi to Jerusalem, met my brother at the Christ Church guest house (where my parents were staying), got some food and then Stephen and I went to our hostel, The Jaffa Gate Hostel. It was dark, basic, with scratchy sheets. I loved it. I felt like we were really roughing it and I loved the novelty of it (the quickly wore off, quickened by a lack of sleep).

Quick Questions
  1. Do you have any interesting flight stories?
  2. What is your worse experience of border control?

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