After getting my passport stamped 3 times before and yet missing every opportunity to travel, I finally set foot outside the country a couple of days ago. The experience has been extremely exhilirating and yet quite humbling. Though I would have loved to visit one of the more oft visited countries that so many of my friends travel to, I was surprised to learn that the first country I would visit would be Israel.
My trip started off with my first stop over at Delhi. I must admit that I love the Jet Airways Service. The cleanliness of the flight, the promptness of the crew and the edible food clearly surpassed the food of the only international flight I have ever travelled in by a great degree.
Due to the non-availability of tickets on El Al, my second stop over turned out to be Vienna before my final destination -Tel Aviv. Vienna is breathtaking. Finally, I got to see some part of it and not hear from friends, read reviews and sigh. The people are extremely stylish and have an impeccable sense of dressing. I got a glimpse of European fashion and was floored. Well, I guess, travelling outside India opened up my eyes to a greater extent than I imagined. I look forward to visiting some more European nations sometime in the future. The flight from Vienna to Tel Aviv was uneventful . However, my security check at the Tel Aviv airport was interesting. There was a strict round of questioning. Although the security personnel were direct in questioning, there were polite. It was an interesting and a little scary 3 hour wait for my security clearance. Yet, I was absorbing all of it in. The sights, smells, the sounds of a new country. I was quite aware that I would face some problem at the airport or at some sensitive locations and now I had experienced it. Earlier on, I mentioned that the trip so far has been a humbling experience. I discovered and saw for once how people live in constant fear and the insecurity that they may lose a loved one anyday, anytime. My taxi driver, who picked me up from the airport was a nice old Israeli man who apologized profusely and was more saddened to know about my experience when I told him it was my first visit. He offered to show me around Jerusalem once we reached there and promised to drop me at the villa that I would be staying. It was a rather nice gesture and that , in fact, marked my first impression about Israel.
Although politically controversial, there is much to write about Jerusalem and Israel than mere newspaper headlines. The culture, the staunch sense of tradition has to be seen and experienced rather than read just as is the case for every other country. Indians are well liked and surprisingly, there isn’t a single Indian store out here where you can buy Indian products unlike other countries where you would generally find a sizeable Indian population.
There are more short stories from my experience so far. Some good, some enlightening. Pictures and experiences more in the next blog. As they say, shalom!