Perimeter of Israel,
Why did I choose to bicycle the perimeter of Israel? Whenever I decide to "perimeter" a
country, I go to Google on the Internet and try to find out everything possible
about the country as well as try to buy a Lonely Planet Guidebook as they have
proven to be the best for frugal travel.
I should have been warned when there was no Lonely Planet Guidebook for Israel;
however, I was able to purchase on Amazon Daniel Jacobs Israel and the Palestinian
Territories. The worst thing about this Lonely Planet
substitute was that it was published in 1998 making it out-dated in 2005.
But why Israel? I had read on the Internet that if one
one would have difficulty visiting other countries because of that Israel
stamp on one's passport. Since my
passport was expiring in February 2006, I would be getting a new one without
any country's stamp. Also, I wanted to
bicycle a low mileage perimeter as I had only 10 days
available during our winter
holidays. My bicycling time is limited
by my vacation times.
But why Israel? It seemed that the terrorism had calmed down
but then my husband wasn't enthusiastic about me going there. Remember, I am a stimulus-seeker and enjoy
seeing and experiencing different cultures.
All these things added together, I made plants to go to Israel,
getting the route approved by Perimeter Bicycling, spending hours on the
Internet finding a cheap flight from Orlando to Tel
Aviv's Ben Gurion Airport, getting my folding Bike Friday ready. Also, my preparations included the necessary
biking and weight lifting. It's so
difficult to get a luggage rack on and off my bike, so I decided upon another
style but I knew that I would have to carry less luggage. This really didn't bother me. I waterproofed the knitting bag that I had
won being the fastest knitter in Melboune and it did work well even though it
was, at times, difficult to strap it on the small luggage rack. I carried no
changes of clothes: just had my cycling knickers to protect my aging knees, a
well stained cycling jersey, "ratty" sneakers, and wore my faithful
black dress and Czech Republic
sandals. My aging Arctic jacket along
with "rain" pants was all I had with me. Of course, I had my work gloves instead of
more expensive cycling gloves,
my bike helmet, bike tools, and
flat fixing supplies. This knitting bag
was bungee corded onto the luggage rack.
The worst thing is that I didn't have room for my knitting!
I flew to Tel Aviv on Dec. 12, 2005, and noted from Continnential's Airline movie
"Once you start quitting, it is hard to stop." Was this a warning to me? On the plane I asked an Israeli how to tell
the difference between an Arab and a Jew?
He replied, "The Arabs will shoot you." I became frightened when several Jews put on
their prayer shawls and began praying in the corners of the airplane. They had
tiny black boxes on their heads on which they attached large black hats. They had the dread locks and looked like the
Jews I had seen who dominated the Diamond Market in Antwerp,
Belgium. By doing all their praying, did they know
something that I don't know?
My perimeter route was dutifully discussed with a Jewish
woman who warned me about
bicycling in certain areas. Her father, a tour guide, had been gunned
down on one of the roads through an almond grove.
At the airport, I landed and went through the routine
customs. Since my bicycle travels in a
suitcase, I had to find the Left Luggage area that was in the parking lot. If only I could quickly put my bicycle
together! Nevertheless, I put it
together and was on my way but there were only expressways leading out of the
airport unlike the quiet roads of
other countries like Ireland,
The airport had hit me like none of the other countries I
have visited. Ben
is the most pristine airport in the world.
There were no armed soldiers as in other airports but I later learned
that there were many security personnel with hidden weapons. Remember it was wintertime so everyone was
wearing jackets that could conceal many guns.
The worst bicycle ride of my life was the 23 mile ride
between Gen Guion
Airport and Herzliya. The intense Interstate traffic hit me like
gun blasts. I had to wait at least five
minutes at every highway entrance
and exit but was ignored by the cars.
Out of exhausted desperation, I tried to find a hotel in Herzliya and
someone finally told me about an inexpensive USD 80.00 near the beach. My first night in Israel
meant having to learn about their supermarkets, their ATM machines, their road signs (in Hebrew, Arabic, and English). I found a bike shop where my bike was further
readied for the trip
and I was told not to bike on
traffic-filled roads but there were no other roads. One should never, never bike a perimeter of Israel!!!!!! The only danger I found was from the very
congested traffic-filled roads.
On 12/14, I had my first breakfast included in the hotel
charge. It was herring, sliced tomatoes,
bread, peppers, and two delicious kinds of cheeses. I was in love with the cheeses but hate
peppers. It took me sometime to find the
hot cocoa but enjoyed their usual tea bags.
Coffee is often served in glasses!
Traffic and more traffic. Where will it end? I biked to Acre
complete with an old town where I found Walied's Gate Hostel instead of Paul's
Hostel that I was told had gone out of business because it couldn't meet
government rules. To get to my room
filled with bunk beds (after much protest, my bike joined me in the room and
this was without exception is Israel. Throughout this trip, my bicycle always slept
in my room), I had to walk through an Arab home where
a mother was teaching her child at a table.
Another woman took charge of me.
The bathroom was like so many other bathrooms in Israel:
a sink, toilet and shower that flowed directly on the tile floor. One was expected to "push" the
shower water into a drain with a "proper" implement provided. I was wandering around when I found a library
with a computer and no one around. I
helped myself immediately getting onto Internet Explorer and emailing
home. Later people came into the library
and then locked me inside. A helpful
person showed me how to get out. I took
photos where Crusaders and Ottomans had been.
The next day I was finally I was out of the traffic and
biking in the Golan Heights on a very lonely road
pushing my bike up the hills and walking down the hills, too. A solider driving
a car with a bicycle in the back seat stopped and asked if I needed help. He explained that he was a soldier and a
bicyclist. I really appreciated the
offer as I was getting cold! It got dark
when I struggled into Qiryat Shemona.
This was the first of my many bouts with insomnia as I had all these
fearful vibes and nightmares that I've never had in any other country I've
biked. I had only a brief sighting of the full moon.
On 12/16 when asking directions as I too often did, I talked
to a man who spoke perfect English.
"You speak excellent English, " I
told him. He replied, "I'm a former
I have lived here 26 years.
It grows on you, like cancer."
When I explained how I was looking forward to seeing the Sea
of Galilee, he insisted, "It's no big deal." As with many Israelis, we discussed our
hurricanes that they had seen on TV.
They even knew about Hurricane Katrina and I told them about our two
"hits" in 2004 and our "near hit" Hurricane Wilma this past
There were soldiers all over the place carrying rifles. In the Gola
Heights area there were
many military vehicles on the
I pushed myself to Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee
where I found a hostel for USD 10. I did
a "walkabout" and got photographed near the Sea of Galilee. I had a problem with strange dreams. My husband had let our seven formerly cats go
to the college and then at an American Psychological Association Convention, I
had told a woman to "f" herself.
Now, in real life, I was would never say anything like this. Where is Sigmund Freud now to analyze my
In Tiberias, there was a wild/loud municipal market with a
large man bellowing something that I could not understand. There were all kinds of fruits and vegetables
for sale. When I attempted to buy one
tangerine like the ones I grow at home, the seller indicated that it was
free. It was delicious!
My favorite thing about Tiberias was the watch repairman in
a stall who quickly "put"
my digital watch with the broken
buttons on Israeli time. I asked
permission to take his photo but he refused.
On 12/17, I was biking south beside the Sea of
Galilee when I saw many runners who looked just like our local
runners. I asked if they were racing and
I was told they were training for a marathon on their Sabbath. Today, I had a beautiful lonely ride along
Jordanian border. I took a photo of my bike here near a highway
sign. I kept hearing what I thought were
mortar sounds. I did find some coins on
the road along with a US
nickel. Then, doom!
About 10 miles from Afula, I saw what I consider a horrible sight when
biking: navy blue sky. I have seen this
above the Arctic Circle, south
of the Circle in Norway,
at home, and even in Oregon and
knew what it meant beyond a shadow of doubt: big bad storm. And it came with almost horizontal rain,
tremendous thunder, and lightning just as bad as from a rain band from Hurricane
Rita this past fall at home. It was one
of the worst thunderstorms of my life and here I was biking in a treeless
area. I was so happy to see Afula but
couldn't find a hotel. Finally, I
stopped at an open market where a young man let me follow his car to a hotel
where I got a room for USD 36.50. The
room had little heat, no TV, and was unable to get my clothes dry but there was
plenty of hot water.
12/18 I want to forget this day as the traffic was
impossibly stressful. A woman police
officer "ran" me off an almost traffic free Highway 6. As in Sweden,
I was forbidden to bike on the less traffic filled roads. But I always obey the police. Darn it!
Finally the I got to the Dead Sea and had
the usual problem of finding cheap accomodations for the night. I could always eat cheap at supermarkets but
finding cheap/safe lodgings is always a problem. I was in a hurry in the
morning as I hate to be caught by darkness but I did enjoy a hotel breakfast buffet
and enjoyed Kellog's cereal and found the cocoa machine. I was in heaven!
12/20 Today, on the desert, I had one of the best bike rides
of my life. I am a proud desert rat
loving the desert where I can see forever.
This Negev Desert
had gas stations for water and food about every 15-20 miles but, again, I began
to get worried about lodging for the night.
roads are the best marked in the world and along the desert road there were
signs with pictures of beds. This meant
places to stay! But again it began
getting dark and I finally biked into a moshav which is essentially an
agricultural cooperative where individuals live in their own homes, raise their
own crops, but share putting in the necessary irrigation pipes, etc.. At Paran Moshav they were growing flowers for
the Holland Flower Market with their flowers being transported all over Europe
and even to the US.
Often in Israel,
I watched "overseaer" like men observing their workers while making
cell phone calls and I guess telling them what to do. Believe me, raising
flowers for the flower trade is very labor intensive.
A two bedroom cottage was rented to me with a refrigerator
(many Israeli rooms had refrigerators) and an electric tea pot with tea
bags. I was able to shop at their
grocery story and was very much noticed.
As usual, I was "adopted" by a woman who spoke
excellent English but noted that I
walked like I was "suffering."
Yes, I was very tired
but usually get tired from biking
any distance over 30 miles.
12/21 I was very happy to have my hot tea in the morning
that fueled my bike ride into the southern most Israel town of Elat, the most
fly infested place I have ever been.
Following the map provided by The Rough Guide, I stayed in Nathan's
White House Hostel that lacked hot water.
It had a picture of the US White House painted on a wall inside its
But I had a plane to catch so on 12/22,
I headed north and stayed at Nizanna, completely exhausted.
12/23 found me in Beersheva my favorite place in Isreal
where I stayed at a youth hostel surrounded by barbed wire with a guard at the
gate. I wrote an article "Bedouin
Market in Beersheva" which I hope to have published "for pay"
Knowing that my plane left on 12/24, I had to bike without
lights in the dark to the Ben Gurion
Airport. Never will I do such a stupid thing
again. Rushing to take my Bike Friday
apart to put into its case kept for me in the Left Luggage, I was extremely
anxious and nervous. But I still had
another serious problem: getting out of Israel.
According to USA Today, December 28, 2005, issue on the front page there's an
article titled "Airport Security Uses Talk as Tactic." It was reported "Behavior detection is
routine in security-conscious countries such as Israel,
where air travelers routinely face aggressive questioning." And I GOT it!
Naturally, I fit all behavior "give aways." I was extremely upset, anxious, while my blood
pressure soared. To make it worse, I had
been to Russia
last summer with my visa to Russia
attached to my passport. Three
interrogators, one at a time, severely questioned me. They tried to trick me into speaking Russian
which I am unable to speak a single word of.
It was one of the few languages that I was unable to learn how to
pronounce "thank you." I found out when I finally got to the US
that Russia had
been supplying the Palestinians with weapons to be used against the Jews. Here I was carrying a bicycle wheel with a
bicycle in a suitcase, just one piece of luggage and couldn't pronounce the
names of the places that I had visited in Isreal. Most of them had been on the Israel
borders as "perimetering" means bicycling
the borders. I have never been so afraid
in my life. When I was asked why I had
I responded that my husband had told me not to go. No one laughed! I couldn't explain bicycle perimetering. I
was asked where I worked and I told them requesting that they call Brevard
Community College where I
teach. My light Nordic features either
saved me or caused further questions because I could possibly appear to be a
Russian even with my American accent. Since I have Finnish ancestry, it is
likely that I fit the physical profile of a Russian. Questions, questions! To avoid this from happening to others I
recommend collecting and saving of all receipts of all accomodations.
One cannot comprehend my relief when I was allowed to board
my plane for home.
The flight was uneventful as I always want a flight to
be. I have to praise Continential
Airlines for putting a tray of cups of water and orange juice in the back of
the plane along with assorted sandwiches and cookies. Underneath this was a trashcan and
hungry/thirsty travelers were helping themselves. All airlines should do this!
But this trip ended with laughter finally! When I was changing planes in Newark,
New Jersey, I heard, "Paging Mr.
Prevert, Mr. Prevert." I guess
someone had had too many Christmas cheerful alcoholic beverages.
Then, after a flight, completely filled so there were no
vacant seats, from Newark to Orlando
when I got off the plane I heard Bing Crosby singing, "I'm dreaming of a
white Christmas." But the best
thing was my friends Darlene and Bob Long picking me up at the Orlando
Airport. It was the perfect ending to a trip that I
wouldn't repeat ever again. .
Bob Long made a most intellectual observation when he told
me, "Everything is magnified in Israel." This was so very, very true.
The next day on Christmas Day, my long-suffering husband and
I bicycled on our tandem (bicycle built for two) our usual 51 mile perimeter of
Palm Bay dressed in our Santa
costumes. We had so much fun wishing
everyone both Happy Holidays and a Merry
Christmas. The weather gave us a Christmas gift of rain
showers. My husband surprised me by
taking me out to Christmas dinner at one of the few open restaurants.