Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Back Online -- Finishing Israel

We're in Aqaba now, so the next few posts will backtrack over the last couple of days. First, my promised thoughts about Israel:

As you can probably tell from the prior posts, I wasn’t taken with Israel. Not unexpectedly, I guess, I found most of the people very harsh and not welcoming or friendly at all. From people in shops to the hotel staff to, well, just about everyone. This was particularly true of our guide, Dafna. While she did a fine job as a guide, everything was quite rushed – I realize and appreciate that she wanted to beat the crowds, and that was nice, but she left no time for wandering or relaxing. More importantly, she had not a single nice word to say about anyone, whether she was speaking about the Palestinians or the Ultra Orthodox Jews or people she had guided before. When she wasn’t on the cell phone with her kids or her friends or the next tourist, she complained that people didn’t realize how much things cost, that people didn’t realize what it took to be a guide in Israel, that people didn’t tip, and on and on. (OK, got it, Dafna, you expect a tip.)

Fortunately, the people of Israel redeemed themselves in Shuki. Shuki was our taxi driver to the Dead Sea and to the Allenby Bridge. Shuki was in all respects Dafna’s opposite. He was relaxed, he was happy, he was in no rush, and he expressed respect and fondness for everyone. We were with Shuki for maybe 4 hours total, and Shuki alone made Israel a place I would want to return to.