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Trip Report Israel Trip Report

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January 2013 - One short week - 3 nights Tel Aviv, 2 in Eilat, 1.5 in Jerusalem.

This was my 7th trip to Israel and I lived there for a year way back in 1998. I've already seen most of the sights, so I didn't do much sightseeing, just lots of walking - through Jaffa and Neve Tzedek, along the new Tel Aviv promenade up to Ramat Aviv, along the coast of Eilat down to the Egyptian border, the old city, Mahane Yehuda and the parks around the Knesset - lots of eating, visiting friends and plenty of beach time. The weather was perfect, sunny and unseasonably warm every day. The water is a bit chilly, but not much different from what it is in New york in early summer.

A few impressions:

This is the most relaxed I've ever seen Israel. There is much less security than in previous years and what does exist is rather lax. I never had to open a bag and when I beeped a couple of times going through metal detectors, no one seemed to care. Whether that is good or bad is another question. There are plenty of Jewish people walking through the Arab quarter of the old city, which they used to stay away from and even some soldiers eating in the restaurants there. There are also quite a lot of Israeli and East Jerusalem Arabs in the malls of West Jerusalem and on the light rail, and even vacationing in Eilat, which you never used to see. Everyone seems to be coexisting, at least on the surface.

Service has gotten more polite, but you still have to push a bit to get what you want. Taxi drivers, always a rough bunch, have gotten nicer and more honest.

While smoking becomes less common around the world, it is still everywhere in Israel. They still allow it enclosed sidewalk areas at restaurants and even where its's not allowed, it is still there, such as on the non-smoking floors of hotels, where you can smell it everywhere.

Eilat - I vowed in 2007 never to return, but after a foot injury interfered with my hiking plans, I decided to try again. It was January, so less crowded, and away from the promenade it is much more pleasant. And the mountains and sea are still beautiful.

Interesting experience - Had to sit on the floor of the bus from Eilat to Jerusalem, along with a bunch of other people, since it was sold out. And there was no room underneath for my backpack so that was on the floor with me, and the rifle of the soldier laying down behind me was in my back. Luckily, one guy got off at the Dead Sea so I was able to grab his seat. And, surprisingly, the bus has free wifi.

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