Holy Land, Part 1

If I were an evil travel agent, I would book the first two days of my trip in the exact same way for someone else. It was so frustrating that it felt diabolical, yet I had done this to myself.

We arrived in Tel-Aviv after 22 hours of travel on a Friday night. Shabbat (Sabbath) had begun. Everything would be closed until sundown on Saturday, and there would be no public transit either. We spent the night in the arrival lounge because hotels are expensive and overrated, and it was already midnight. It isn’t comfortable, but it’s not that bad.

I booked an Airbnb for the following night in some some suburb north of the airport because it offered airport pickups. Because it was last minute, they couldn’t pick us up after all. We had to take a taxi. I HATE taxis. There was a 40% surcharge because it was Shabbat and the driver was awful. He swerved across lanes while texting and then took us to the wrong location. I had shown him the address in Hebrew and in English, and I had also pointed to the location on the map at several stages of the journey. He flagged down a stranger to convince me that he had taken me to the right location. I showed the stranger the map and address, and he gave the driver directions. Eventually we made it, but the driver wanted more money because the journey took longer than expected. No way.

We were too early to check in, so we wandered around with our bags looking for lunch. Everything was closed and we were hungry. We read on a bench for an hour and then checked in. Our host was very hospitable and he made us coffee and lunch and assured us that the restaurants would open after sundown. We took a six-hour nap and our spirits improved until we tried to get dinner in the rain. The first restaurant had menus with Hebrew script and numerals and no pictures. The second had Hebrew script, but Arabic numerals and pictures. We pointed and paid, but they would not accept our credit card because we don’t have an Israeli identification number. The nearby ATM gave us little cash on the fourth try.

Things got better from here.