The package included transfer from the airport to our hotel, the Dan Panorama. A Globus rep was waiting for us when we got to baggage claim and introduced us to our driver, Moshe. I figured if Moses was guiding us into the Holy Land, we were in pretty good shape.
We booked a flight in a day early, arriving Saturday night in hopes of recovering from our jet lag by the time the tour started on Monday morning. The idea was that we'd get in around 5pm, have a nice dinner, get a good night's rest and be nice and perky on Sunday.
Unfortunately, the body takes longer than 36 hours to fully adjust to an 8-hour time change, so the early arrival didn't do much for us. In addition, we arrived on the sabbath (when alot of things were closed) and there were few dining options clearly visible within a convenient walk of the hotel. Add to that my mother's decidedly unadventurous spirit when in strange urban areas. So, we took a little walk around the neighborhood and ultimately ended up getting hot dogs at a little shop around the corner before turning in for a restless first night in Israel.
After dropping mom off, I ventured back out for a little additional exploration of the surrounding neighborhood, Neveh Tzedek. I did find Suzanna, a restaurant that had been suggested to us by some fellow travellers we bumped into on the street - but dinner there would have to wait until tomorrow.
One nice thing about the hotel was it's location on the beach right across from Charles Clore park. I got up early and took a jog uptown along the beach, which involved more walking than running because of the interesting sights and the languor of my jet-lagged body.
Throughout the tour, we managed to spend a lot of time in areas that had been developed in the 1970's, and the architecture was a bit worse for wear. The country does seem to have developed in spurts of modernist explosion, which causes problems as large sections of infrastructure simultaneously reach the end of their design lifetimes and fashionability. There are also some fundamental ergonomic issues with 1970's architecture that become painfully evident in such a concentration - such as the forbidding street walls and useless elevated pavilions. But it does have a certain tragic beauty.
When we arrived in Tel Aviv, there were a number of small bonfires burning around the neighborhood. Turns out it was a holiday called Lag BaOmer, which celebrates, "the anniversary of the passing of the great sage and mystic Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, author of the Zohar. It also commemorates another event. In the weeks between Passover and Shavuot, a plague raged amongst the disciples of the great sage Rabbi Akiva. On Lag BaOmer the dying ceased."
The crows in Israel are hooded crows, which have ash gray bodies with black head, throats, wings, tail and thigh feathers. Although they behave like the all-black North American Crow, for some reason I found them oddly captivating.