Monday, November 24, 2014

Israel 2014 Day 12: Home and Gifts

Israel 2014 Day 12: Home and Gifts

For our last day of the trip, we got up early and just had a small breakfast before making the trip to TLV airport. We dropped off the car, and got to the airport with lots of time. The airport is quite huge and we had a great time there -- there is a pretty epic duty free area with crazy stuff like fridges and TVs and so on. Funny.

Back to the airport!
Definitely the first massive mezuzah I've seen at an airport
Kosher Aroma
We stopped by Aroma one last time, of course... to get, as usual, an Ice Aroma. So epic. We also picked up an apple pastry for later (mmm), and got a tasty cheese bureka filled with egg, pickles, and tahina! So good.

Hebrew DreamWorks and Blue Sky movies
Ratatouille and Wall-E!
Tasty Aroma meal before the long flight!
We had an hour and a half or so, so we spent a bunch of time in the Duty Free shop. They had a huge section of unusual whiskies so it was fun to check those out. They had the Laphroaig "Qa" Cask (not "Quarter Cask", but "Qa Cask", a totally different one), and some other interesting choices like Talisker Dark Storm and a strange Jura one. They even had my Bruichladdich Bere Barley -- which was supposedly Distillery-only, but I knew was also available in "travel retail", i.e. in airport duty free shops like this one. They had some Port Charlotte too and some other interesting things to check out.

I bought some Pop Rocks chocolate which was epic and would be fun to take home to my colleagues, as well as some Max Brenner chocolates for the airplane ride. After a nice Aroma breakfast, we headed to the plane for the long trip back to SFO, via Toronto. The trip to Toronto was good -- I didn't actually watch any movies on such a long trip!! It was a nice opportunity to catch up on some things: reading all of my buddy Matt's Scotland travel journal, answering tons of emails, organizing my to-do list, and also finishing the notes for this journal. After many hours of doing that stuff, I still had 3 hrs left of the flight, and decided to get a little sleep. What an awesome trip.

Traveling via Toronto, as you can see
We transferred in Toronto, almost missing our flight back to SFO due to customs taking forever, but you can't keep me away from Tim Horton's even if I might miss my flight. I ended up haulin' it across the airport, carrying tons of stuff and running like a fiend so that I could grab a Tim Hortons coffee, and get Michal a Tim Hortons muffin. I sprinted to the plane and made it back just in time -- with a nice warm cup of Timmy's coffee for the ride back to SF. Sweet. :)

After getting back and unpacking, here's a few of the interesting things I received, bought or got for others as gifts.

"Yu-tan" letters, tea
Salad chopper, tea, and yarmulkes from Tzfat
Zaatar, shabbos napkins, and a hamsa
Israeli pop-rocks chocolate!
Special dreidels, plus 3 Mezuzahs and 1 scroll
Artwork I bought in Tzfat
Magen David surf necklace
Salad dressing pourer
...complete with a recipe
Awesome placemats and coasters!
And... time to prepare my own labne/zaatar combo at home :)
Looking back on this trip, I am very grateful to my girlfriend Michal for encouraging me to come with her and to her family for making the trip such a welcoming and enjoyable experience. I had always imagined that "one day" I would go visit Israel -- I even said that to Michal, "well, one day..." when she asked if I was ever interested to go. I never expected that "one day" would be so soon, but I am very glad for it. I look back on my first experience at the Western Wall with extreme gratitude and appreciation for the importance and weight of that opportunity. It was totally awesome, in the full sense of the word. I was welcomed with open arms, and met so many warm and sincerely caring people.

I am also grateful that I felt safe the entire time. To be very honest, this was a big concern of mine, visiting for the first time. It was not without reason -- the very tragic story of the three boys kidnapped happened just as we arrived, and very soon after we returned home to San Francisco, the terrible news that the bodies of the three boys were found; and violence broke out which has lasted for months. It is such a sad occurrence; for a place so beautiful and with so many incredible natural experiences, that there is so much hate and anger in the world for its existence.

I met some wonderful people there and felt so welcome and encouraged by their community spirit and good nature. I saw Hasidim dancing and singing in the street to encourage happiness and joyfulness. I ate an odd McDonald's Hamburger and saw Hebrew writing written in "Chinese-style" for a Chinese restaurant. I floated in the Dead Sea and walked the ancient mystical streets of Tzfat. It was an incredible experience, and I am so happy not only to experience it for the first time, but for that experience to have been led by an epic girl whom I admire and appreciate more than she knows. :)

Where to next? Well, wherever it is, I'm sure it will be epic. :)

-Mike Jutan

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