Perimeter of Israel, December 2005


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 visited Israel 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 Netherlands, Belgium, etc..


The airport had hit me like none of the other countries I have visited.  Ben Guion Airport 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 American.

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 year.


There were soldiers all over the place carrying rifles.  In the Gola Heights area there were

many military vehicles on the roads.


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 dreams?  Ha!


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 the

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!


12/19  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.  Israel's 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 gates


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" soon.


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 visited Israel, 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.