Tour of Israel and Jordan

Mike and Judy Henderson
November 14-27, 2017

I've wanted to take Judy to Israel for a while.  I had been to Israel a couple of times on business.  In 2000, I was on a trip to Israel, staying in Tel Aviv, and took some extra days to see Jerusalem and Bethlehem, but had not seen any other parts of the country.

We both enjoyed the way Tauck handled our Iceland cruise, so I looked for a Tauck tour of Israel and found this one.  It actually does Israel and Jordan which is appealing - I've never been to Jordan.  Anyway, here's a map of the tour.

Thanksgiving is November 23 in 2017 so this tour will have us in the Middle East for Thanksgiving.  And we'll celebrate Judy's birthday during the trip.


11/12/2017 (Sunday) We're on our way!  We fly to Frankfurt and then from Frankfurt to Tel Aviv.

Israel is a very special place.  The stories of the old and new testament are part of our western heritage.  King David walked the land of Israel and fought Goliath there.  King Solomon, David's son, dispensed his wise justice there.  Moses yearned for Israel and led his people out of bondage in Egypt - and gave us the commandments that we still live by.  And, of course, Jesus was born there and did his ministry there.

To walk the land of Israel is to walk in the footsteps of our ancestors - to see the hills and mountains they saw.  To visit old Jerusalem where the First and Second Temples were built - and destroyed.  To see the Dome of the Rock where Muhammad is reputed to have started his Night Journey to heaven.  It is a land holy to many religions.  But even if you're not religious, Israel is still very special because of how far it reaches into our past.

Hopefully, we'll be able to explore and understand both the modern Israel and the ancient Israel.  We'll post pictures of what we see and our impressions of the country and the people.

But back to our trip.  I always post a picture of Judy and me beginning our trip and here's the one for this trip.

The limo showed up on time - actually early - and the trip to LAX was easy with minimal traffic.  Probably took 45 minutes to get to the airport.  Here's Judy checking us in.

Our friends, Jacki and Stan, are going on the tour with us but they are traveling on El Al so they were in a different lounge than the one we were to use.  I called Jacki and she came out to greet us.  I didn't have my flash on so the picture isn't sharp,

We went back to their lounge and had the receptionist take a picture of us,  We will meet tomorrow in Tel Aviv.  They leave about 1pm and fly non-stop to Tel Aviv so they'll get there much earlier than we will,

We went to the Star Alliance lounge.

It's a very nice lounge with decent Internet access.  Our flight was delayed until about 4pm so we had lots of time in the lounge.

I spent the time doing an entry for my beekeeping blog (shameless plug). About 3pm we went to the gate and they boarded us fairly quickly.  The plane is a Lufthansa Airbus A380.  I couldn't get a picture of the one we're on but here's an Air France A380 that was parked next to us.  There are two decks on the plane.  We're in the upper deck somewhat over the wing.

The seating is very nice, with two seats next to each other. Much better than the herringbone seating we had on the previous trip (on Air New Zealand).

Soon we were off.

Judy took this picture of me.  I'm usually taking the pictures so these trips don't have many pictures of me.

Here's a shot of the port area of Long Beach/LA as we leave Los Angeles, with the San Bernardino mountains in the distance.

The seats were comfortable, both upright and reclined.  Lufthansa provided a very nice meal and the service was excellent.  After dinner they closed all the shades and we tried to sleep.  A bit before we arrived they woke us us and served breakfast.  But no matter how you slice it, it's a long flight.


11/13/2017 (Monday) We arrived safely in Frankfurt after a ten hour flight.  I was able to get a bit of sleep but Judy reports that she was unable to sleep.  We still have a four hour flight from Frankfurt to Tel Aviv.

Today is Judy's birthday.  It arrived while we were over the Atlantic.  Happy Birthday, Judy!

We had a three hour layover in Frankfurt.  Even though we were in the secure part of the terminal, we had to go through another security check for our flight to Tel Aviv.

Here's the Lufthansa plane that will fly us to Tel Aviv - an Airbus A321.  We were to soon find out that we went from a Rolls Royce to a Yugo.

We're off.  That's the Frankfurt area below us.

The problem with the plane is that they have the whole plane configured for economy seating.  For "Business Class" they just don't assign the middle seats.  But the seats themselves are standard, thin back, limited reclining economy seats with economy seat pitch (leg room), no entertainment screens, and no power outlets.  While the picture doesn't show it, the right side of the plane is also three seats across, just like what you see in front of us.

The meal service was very similar to economy meals, just a tray with dishes on it.  No white table cloth:-)  It's really just basic air transport.

I suppose they do this so that they can easily adjust the number of business class seats sold.  If they maintain a buffer of unassigned seats between the two cabins, they can just move the curtain backward or forward to accommodate more or less business customers.  If they use different seats, such as regular first class seats, they are limited to the number of seats installed for business class.

The other alternative is that Lufthansa is concerned that terrorists will shoot the plane down going in to Tel Aviv and they don't want to lose one of their modern aircraft with all the amenities (that's a joke, people).

We arrived in Tel Aviv after dark, approaching over the Mediterranean Sea.

We landed a bit after 7pm.  The airplane parked on the tarmac and we were bused to the terminal - a very nice, modern terminal.  My first visit to Israel was in 2000 and I don't remember the terminal being as large and as modern as it is.

We had to pass through passport control, which took too much time.  But once we were through, the Tauck greeter was right there where Tauck said he would be.

I want to give a compliment to Tauck about this.  A few days before we left, I received a text from Tauck which listed our flight arraignments and was very specific about where they would meet us in the Tel Aviv airport.  And the meeting was exactly as they described.  Tauck also has a smartphone app that I downloaded that looks useful.  I'll report on it later, after I've had more time to use it.

The Tauck greeter arranged for a taxi (paid for by Tauck) to take us to the hotel, the David InterContinental.  It's a very nice hotel, right on the Mediterranean.  Across the street is a small mosque.  I mention this because when I was here in 2000 I stayed at a nice hotel on the Mediterranean, next door to a small mosque.  But the David InterContinental does not seem familiar to me. [Update:  I talked to the front desk and this hotel used to be a ten story hotel but was enlarged and renovated a few years ago.  So I think it was the hotel I stayed in in 2000.]

Around 8:30pm, shortly after we checked in, we received a text from our friends, Jacki and Stan, and went downstairs to the lobby to meet them for drinks.  Jacki's cousin, Joyce, arrived from New York and was with them.

We had a drink and we each recounted our trip to Tel Aviv, and then headed off to bed about 10pm.


11/14/2017 (Tuesday) We woke up early this morning, as is usual when traveling, but we slept until almost 5am which is later than on previous trips.

After breakfast in the hotel, the five of us took two taxis to the Yitzhak Rabin Center, a museum of Rabin's life.

Here's a view of the center.  The museum is located in the round part.  You walk up to the top (or take an elevator) and the museum spirals downward, with exhibits in the walkway and in alcoves off the spiral walkway.  Basically, Rabin's life mirror's the history of modern Israel.  If you're our age (old!) and you followed events in Israel throughout your life, there won't be a lot new for you in this museum.  But the exhibits are interesting.

Here's our group on the steps of the center.

After the visit, Judy and I returned to the hotel and took a nap.  Our friends, much heartier than we, went on to the Palmach museum.

Our tour begins tonight at 6:30pm, in a restaurant in the hotel.  We met our guide for the tour - Mark Goldsmith-Holt.

We had drinks and hor d'ouevres and began to meet our tour companions - there are 32 people on this tour.   About 7pm, Mark gave us a short talk about the upcoming tour.

Then it was to dinner.  It's hard to see here, but there are four tables around the room, with eight to ten seats per table.  This allowed the groups at each table to spend some time together.

The meal was nice - kosher - and we got to know the people at our table better.  But after about three hours, fatigue began to take a toll and we headed up to bed - to get ready for tomorrow's touring.


Our adventure continues here