Monthly Archives: July 2011

Reality Bites

Or back to work with a bump. So far – well the chocoalte hastily bought in Zurich has been eaten, and I had people asking where I got it.

I think I also convinced a few people to consider having holidays in Israel after raving about the weather and the lack of this strange wet stuff coming down from the sky. Guess it is time to get used to highs of 17c – 19c being summer again. I’m sure it must have been twice as hot in Israel, and that I probably moaned it was too hot!

So the question is what now? It is a good question – I’m currently drafting a letter to the Rep Council here, and we’ll see what comes of it. I have a few ideas that I want to talk to them about, it’s a question of them wanting to listen and help.

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Posted by on July 21, 2011 in Uncategorized


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Home at last

Although I thought I might not make it a few times….

Having done my shopping and packing, I decided on a quick shower (well quick for me!) and getting changed before trying to get three or four hours sleep. I really hope I didn’t wake Shelly – mind you I hardly noticed her getting back at half past one???

Anyway – my sherut (scheduled minibus service) to the airport arrived at 3am as booked, and I got to the airport, expecting check in to not even be open yet – my flight was 07:10, so it shouldn’t have opened until 04:10. But… There was already a queue, for the queue to go through the first security check before check in – so like a little lost sheep (baa!) I joined it, and waited 45 min to be told to go straight through to check in.

Check in desks 78-99 are dedicated to El-Al, and it was use any desk. However, 98 was for unaccompanied minors, and 99 for the disabled – of which there were none. So anyone with a brain might have started sending people through them – but no, it was one long queue. And of course the Israeli’s all had to yell at the poor girl behind the desk for 10 minutes before she could check them in, which in turn made everyone else even more stressed about missing flights – in fact some people did actually miss planes. I finally got checked in, through security and passport control and found the gate. Then I loooked at the sign. It read ‘The time now is 06:29. Boarding commences at 06:30’. Not even enough time to have a wee before getting on the plane! Although somehow – and I’m not really sure how I seemed to have ended up in premium economy. Probably because I didn’t moan at them at check in.

It was on time into Zurich and I was able to shop a little there, unlike in Israel – I was left with NIS 370 that I’d taken out to use in the Duty Free in Israel that is going to be changed back into Pounds later.

The Zurich flight took off on time – but just as things seemed to be going too well… Along come the stewardesses yelling ‘Medical Case!’ An elderly man two rows in front of me had passed out. The Cheif Steward legged it down from first class at the front of the plane and there was a bit of fuss, followed by the ‘Is there a Doctor on board’ announcement. There was, but unusually for the Swiss he didn’t speak much English – I had visions of us being diverted to Paris/Brussels (basically any place but Manchester), or turned around back to Zurich. Fortunately there was a Nurse on board who spoke bothe English and German who could interpret. The man was okay – turned out he’d just fainted.

There was a young couple sat immediately behind with a baby – who hated the attention and promptly began to yell. all in all, not a relaxing flight.

However, it was on time, and I was me by my parents. After that – well i did a quick dash to Tesco for supplies, and I was so tired that I picked up what I thought was a packet of tea cakes, only to get home and find it was actually baps!

Now – well my photos are sorted and I’m about ready to think about going to work again. It seems like a dream. But Israel did happen

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Posted by on July 18, 2011 in Uncategorized


The last day…

So it came at last, the end… It seemed so far away to start with, but then I actually got here, and things went so fast.

The day started with a trip to see disputed areas of Jerusalem – we saw from a lookout point the palestinian cities of Beit Jallah and Beit Lehem (Bethlehem), and could clearly see the security fence, which is not a wall for the whole length despite what people say. There are stretches that are just a fence, and some that are a wall – most of it is a fence. Then down to the checkpoint at Bethlehem, and then onto Sheikh Jarrah/Shimon HaTzaddik, an areadeemed to be Israel, but mostly arabs living there until recently when Jews started to move in. There was no sign of guards about, and to my eyes at least it looked a normal, if a little run down area of the city.

We also went to the Tayelet (Promenade) in Talpiot which gave a panoramic view of the city, and to the Kottel (Western Wall) where I think most of us took the chance to go and leave a note there, it is a holy place and there were clearly people of other faiths praying there and leaving notes, as well as many Bar Mitzvah celebrations taking place.

Lunch was back at the MFA, then we had a closing session, where certificates were presented, and photos taken. We ended with singing the Hatikvah, then it really was time to say goodbye.

Since then, well I went back to the hotel and dropped my stuff off, then walked to Ben Yehuda street to do some last minute shopping. Now, i have a sherut ordered for 3am, so time to repack my bags, then shower and crash out for a bit. See you again at home.

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Posted by on July 14, 2011 in Uncategorized


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A second go

A second post in one day!

Just come back from dinner at Canela restaurant. As the final dinner, we had some speeches, and this time I stuck firmly to white wine and coca cola – not getting into the red like last night. As a group we had got a present for our hosts, Irit and Ami – we had a group photo taken of ourselves outside the Menorah by the Knesset, which we had enlarged and framed. One for each of them and a third for our wonderful bus driver Yaacov who has entertained us with his ukelele all week. He didn’t drtive us this evening, so we’ll get that to him tomorrow.

It was a good job we had a private room – the impromptu karaoke session was rather loud, but lots of fun. Freddie – I’m sorry, we murdered your songs, but they gave us a lot of fun, especially Bohemian Rhapsody with our intrepid international choir hailing from Venezuela, Turkey, Mexico, Uruguay, Italy, Georgia, Australia, Romania, USA, Israel, and the UK. If I missed anyone I’m sorry!

Tomorrow we are touring disputed parts of Jerusalem, then we have a closing ceremony. I hope to get some shopping done afterwards, still have a few presents left to buy.

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Posted by on July 13, 2011 in Uncategorized


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Tough Questions…. And how to answer them

I guess so far I can sum up today with the above title. Short version was that it was media briefings, and media training. Now those of you who do actually know me will know that talking one to one is fine, but a huge group – gives me the creeps. Oh well, not like public speaking is that high on the agenda at this precise moment in time!

Out for a final dinner later, so I may catch up later.

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Posted by on July 13, 2011 in Uncategorized


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Yet another two in one…

After leaving the kibbutz hotel, complete with those people who had sore heads (we had a beach party and it apparently got late – I went to bed at one and have no idea what time my room mate got in as I was dead to the world!). First couple of stops were at lookout points, one where you could see Lebanon, the other you could see into Syria. I was 60km (a little under 40 miles) from Damascus and am please to report that no international incidents were caused by me or anyone else!

Then it was off to lunch on an army base. Oddly appropriate after a visit to Amuka the day before that we should be confronted by lots of good looking young men in uniform! Despite bing told that the food would be awful, it wasn’t that bad, which made me wonder if the soldiers were grateful for us turning up as it gave them better food! One of the officers talked to us about huis battalion, and what they did, then as they are an artillery battalion they took us out to see the guns. The emphasis was very much on how they could target their weapons carefully. and how they were all taught to do minimum damage to civilians. And yes, there were a few other soldiers around who spoke English that were willing to talk to us, and they all said much the same thing.

After that, well – Wine Tasting time!!! The Golan Heights has a fantastic winery and we had a quick whistle stop tour, including the delights of Motty the robot who stacked the pallets. But the star of the show was the tasting. I liked the whites, but not the Merlot. Didn’t buy any as it is the same price back home, so not worth carrying it.

Finally we went back to Tel Aviv, I think i slept a little on the coach, only waking up when we had a brief stop at a service station somewhere near Zichron Yaacov. All I can say about that is that the worst services in England are palaces compared to the facilities at this particular Israeli one – it was a petrol station with a small shop/restaurant, with lousy loos, and worst of all – NO CHOCOLATE!!!

Dinner was kebabs and chips, with salads. I managed to get a liver one – and Mum, you cook it far better! The meatball one was nice though.

Stayed at the Dan Panorama overnight – this time in a still nice, but not as nice room. But as it was for only one night it was not a problem. Went to the beach briefly at 10pm – only time it was cool enough!

Today (Tuesday)
Went to the Export institute for some meetings with people there. I have to say that the high tech talk, and the consumer goods talk were good, but the economics one went right over my head – I always knew there was a reason I hadn’t picked that subject at school!

We had a little free time after in Jaffa – went to the shuk there, which is really more of a flea market. Although I have added to my elephant collection, with a Mama elephant and two babies 🙂

Then it was off to visit a charity project at Wolfson Hospital in Holon. Interesting to note that after ther hospital was built, they built a small shopping centre outside it – we saw patients who were well enough going for a wander to buy books and sweets and things – there were clothes shops there, and a branch of McDonalds as well.

The Save a Child’s Heart project was truly inspiring, we met the Surgeon in charge, who talked to us briefly before he was due in theatre. They treat two types of issues there, congenital heart problems, and rheumatic heart disease, and the children come from the Palestinian territories, and all over the developing world (Africa, other parts of the Middle East, and oddly Romania). Today’s clinic was for treating Palestinian children, and I really felt for one of the mother’s there, apparently her child had something that was most likely inoperable.

The children that come in from overseas stay at a house nearby. We went to see it, and it was a really happy place with a good few children ready to actually head home tomorrow, including a really smily little boy from Ethiopia. We played with them, spoke to the volunteers there and it had a really good atmosphere.

Back on the bus we headed back to Jerusalem where dinner with a government minister, Yuli Edelstein, who is the minister for the diaspora awaited us. It was pretty good, and somehow, despite sitting opposite I barely managed two words – our man from Greece had a lot to say. Still, he gave a good speech, stressing that the main thing was to counter ignorance where possible.

As for now, well I’m in the second hotel room of the night. We got here, and discovered that a) none of us had keys that could open the rooms, and then b) our room only had a king size bed. Now my roomie and I are friendly, but not that friendly! So while I stayed with our bags, she went to ask about moving. So I write this now, sat on the top floor of the hotel, in a huge room with twin beds. It does need a little modernisation, but nothing that can’t be lived with for 3 nights – mainly a lick of paint and a newer air conditioning unit that isn’t quite so noisy – but this high up we can open the balcony door and not be disturbed by the road.

All in all, it’s been a long and intense day. I’m about ready to crash out and try my very comfy looking bed!

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Posted by on July 12, 2011 in Uncategorized


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Three in one, or a menage a trois!

Actually an update on three days in one!

We left Jerusalem for Lod, which is one of the most deprived areas in Israel. It seems to have a majority Arab/Bedouin population, most of whom live in illegally built slum areas. This seems to be the cause of a lot of crime/drugs/violence in the area. But there is an amazing organization, the Lod Foundation that has a vision to ty to turn things around in the next few years.

We also saw the Church of Saint George – there is a very famous icon of him killing the dragon, and what is reportedly his tomb below the main building.

Then it was on to Tel Aviv, and a trip to the Carmel Market where you can get anything and everything – So Dad, if you are reading this, I have your chocolate! Also onto Max Brenner for a chocolate fondue, and then back to the hotel via Nachalat Benyamin. A quick shower and dinner – roast goose for the record, had to be tried, then a few of us went on a night walking tour of Jaffa, which was stunning.

A day off!! I slept in, then after speaking to an old friend, agreed that they would come and meet me and let their kids swim in the hotel pool. So it was great to catch up, even if I did get my ear talked off about Doctor Who by an 8 year old who seems as obsessed as a certain 9 year old back in England! We had a picnic and ice lollies by the pool until it was time for me to meet up with the group.

We had a discussion about the projects people are working on, and how things have gone so far then, dinner, which included the bizarrely translated ‘Beef Language’ aka – tongue. There was a provate show arranged for us in the evening, called ‘An Israeli Love Story’ performed by Adi Bielski. Set against the backdrop of WWII and the lead up to the declaration of the State of Israel it was very moving. Girl meets boy, he doesn’t notice her for years then when they do fall in love, and plan a wedding… something tragic happens. It is a true story, and we were lucky enough to meet the author, whio was a truly incredible lady.

Sunday (today)
Left Tel Aviv for the north. The first stop was in a bedouin villiage Khawaled, where we were hosted by the familiy of Ishmail Khaldi, Israel’s first bedouin diplomat. His family were incredibly warm and welcoming, it is true what they say about their hospitality, although I think the youngest member of his family was the star of the show, a real charmer aged around a year with a cheeky smile and a love of being the centre of attention.

We were so long there, we missed lunch! It was then off to Julis, a Druze village, where we met the current spiritual leader and listened to a talk by a Professor of Hebrew Literature on the Druze and their situation in Israel.

Then a trip to Amuka, where it is said you can pray at the tomb of a famous Rabbi to find your soulmate. So if you are out there and reading this…..

A welcome dinner came next, and onto our stop for the night, Kibbutz Ginnosar.

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Posted by on July 10, 2011 in Uncategorized