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Posted by Dexter Matilla - - 3 comments

While I know it's been a few days since I got back home, I'll try to remember everything that happened during my trip to Israel for the workshop on the Media Strategies for Social Change 2010 (organized by Israel's National Agency for International Cooperation-MASHAV, Ministry of Foreign Affairs in cooperation with the Israel National Commission for UNESCO). I will, to the best of my abilities, try to write a series of stories about the people I met, the food I ate, and the sights and sounds that made for one unforgettable experience.

I guess this would make a good memory exercise for me while at the same time, it gives me the opportunity to reminisce. So with as few words as I can, here I go.

The Philippine Airlines flight from Manila to Hong Kong was a breeze. As soon as Ricky Gallardo of Business Mirror and I exited the tube, we were led to the El Al Airlines counter where we were asked several questions. For security purposes, of course/I suppose.

It was fortunate though that Course Director Michel Kahn emailed us a letter (in English and in Hebrew) that proved helpful more than once. After more security procedures, I eventually found myself on my seat, seated between two Israelis who seem to know each other. This is one thing I noticed the entire flight: the passengers spoke with each other a lot. Even though I couldn't understand Hebrew, I kind of had the feeling that not all of them knew each other. I hypothesized at that moment that they have to be a friendly bunch. I had no idea just how right I would be.

Anyways, I really enjoyed the flight from Hong Kong via El Al to Tel Aviv. We were served two meals: dinner and breakfast. Both had kosher certificates. At this time, I still didn't know what that meant. But without getting ahead, the in-flight entertainment the airline offered made the 12-hour journey comfortable.

"Now that you mentioned it, I do have fantasies of lying down and sleeping on the aircraft floor."

I particularly liked that there was a real-time update of the flight status. As I didn't have a window seat, I had no idea where we were. (As if I WOULD know exactly where we were by looking out the window.)

"Yes, Aral Sea. I've heard so much about you."

And then we landed finally at the Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv. First thing I noticed was what seemed to be a large wall of sandstone leading into the main area of the airport. This instantly reminded me of the Western Wall, based on pictures I've seen of it of course. 

Before heading to the baggage claim, we were once again asked questions, thus the letter proved useful once more. With our luggage on tow, Ricky and I decided to have our money changed. Currency in Israel is the NIS or simply Shekel. I decided to have just $100 changed and since I notice a lot, I noticed again that there was this little word "commission", with numbers across it, written in our receipts. Hmmm...

As we were exiting the airport, I noticed a bust of a man who looked like Heihachi Mishima from the video game Tekken. I read the inscription and it said "D. Ben Gurion".

"Oh so you're THE Ben Gurion."

From the letter Michel sent us, the instructions were to take ONLY the Amal taxi and ask the driver to drop us off at the Golda Meir Training Center in Haifa. Lucky for us, there was an Amal taxi van already with three passengers inside, one of whom was a Chinese guy. Even luckier was that we didn't have to wait very long for the taxi to be filled and in less than 15 minutes, we were already on the way. 

Looking outside the taxi window at around 4am, I could not believe that I was in Israel. Excited was not even close to describing my feelings at the time. I barely noticed how long we had been traveling when the driver stopped somewhere and then pointed to me, Ricky, and the Chinese guy. We all got off the taxi and paid the driver who then said that we were already outside the gates of the Golda Meir Training Center. 

I asked the Chinese guy if he was also in Israel for the workshop. He said yes and then introduced himself as Li. After introducing ourselves, we rang the bell and were then greeted with a buzz. Not knowing what to do, we waited for a few seconds until we saw the guy inside the center who was seated behind a desk stand up and motioned for us to push the gates. He then went behind his desk and pushed something and then we heard the buzz again. After some trial and error, we were finally able to open the gate and make our way into the center.

"I've arrived... in Israel."

3 Responses so far.

  1. now this is a real travel journal. 3 weeks will become 3 years! when do you get to our pilates lessons?

  2. Oh, I have pretty good story about the first day too :)).

    Question: Is blogspot popular in Philippines as I know at least 2 others who have blogs on this site?

  3. DX says:

    @Helena, wouldn't it be fun if I was able to stretch the 3 weeks to 3 years? :D

    I'll get to the pilates lessons dont worry ;>

    @Ninh, write your story! :) i want to read it :) Blogspot, Wordpress, LiveJournal I think... I used to use Wordpress and I tried to use LiveJournal but I didn't get the hang of it hahahha

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