We stepped off the plane to a balmy 34 degrees. When we left, we had left about 4 degrees so were dressed somewhere in between. Too cold for Canberra, and way too hot for Tel-Aviv.
This was my third visit to Israel. I was prepared for the usual tense questioning and judgment from the customs officials. Although my partner is Israeli, we lined up in the foreigners line worrying we might provoke annoyance whichever line we picked. Surprisingly, we were warmly welcomed, well at least welcomed to the country and told we could also use the Israeli line in future (a promise yet to be confirmed). After our easy passage through customs, we looked at the boards to find out which carousel our luggage would arrive on. Number ‘8’ flashed the sign. We grabbed a trolley and headed for carousel 8.
There is something about the baggage carousel that sends people into a territorial tizzy. Parking their trolleys sideways and as close as possible to the carousel. Leaning over to get a view of the forthcoming luggage, and all huddling around the same point to grab their bags the moment they appear. And every time, you see people struggling to pull off their large suitcase inevitably hitting 12 people who are just as eager to get their luggage.
Laughing smugly to ourselves about the unrestrained madness of the baggage carousel, we stood back a bit as we waited for our luggage. And waited. And waited. The bags pile-ups were getting smaller, the crowd thinning and we were starting to see the same old bags rolling around. Our bags were nowhere to be seen. Not ones to panic, we re-checked the board for the carousel number. Low and behold, the carousel number had changed. So we joined the hordes at our new carousel and it wasn’t long before, bags in tow, we were heading for the exit.
We were greeted by the joyous embrace of my fiancé’s family. Melting in jeans and long sleeves, and dying for a shower, we tried to pack the suitcases in the car. Alas, they didn’t fit – we tried several combinations: two smaller suitcases on the bottom; large on top, three side ways; large, small, small etc. We were also contending with the usual boot contents including a basketball and shopping trolley. Getting hotter by the minute, the final configuration was the two smaller suitcases in the boot and the largest (Big Mother-ship as we call it) was crammed into the back seat with us. Here begun the first of the Tetris challenges of this trip (you will hear more about this later).
It only took about five minutes before we were asked that fateful question: “Atem Re’evim?” or “are you hungry?” I never know how to answer this. If you are hungry, the polite Australian in me tells me it’s rude to say “yes” and if I am not hungry, I have learnt after three trips to Israel, it is rude to say “no.” So the only option is to say yes and eat. And even when you eat, you can never eat enough to satisfy those cooking for you.
That night more family members joined us. We talked about what had been happening and were entertained by the dramatic and comic styling’s of my partner’s nephew. He regaled to us various tales of woe, negotiated for cakes and candy and created a general (but wonderful) ‘balagan’ (mess).
Finally the jet-lag caught up to us and we hit the hay. I don’t think I have slept so deeply in all my life. A glorious 12 hours sleep.