ISRAEL - TEL AVIV
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United States Department of State issues Israel Travel Warning

I was in Tel Aviv taking a training course at a large Telecom company. The company was located in a suburb called Petah Tikva, normally about a half hour's taxi ride from my hotel. My first impression was how poorly many people in Tel Aviv speak English. A lot of the people I came in contact with didn't speak the language at all, and understood only a little. I must say that everyone I met in Tel Aviv seemed very friendly & helpful, whether they understood me or not.

Breakfasts at the hotel were good, although they do not mix meat with dairy products. So no meat for breakfast. There was a wide variety of pickled fish and bread... I made a new discovery: "Shakshuka" - I ate it every morning! Tastes great, and I make it once in a while at home. Eating out was nice. I usually got a lot more food than I could eat, with small dishes of things to nibble on along with my main dish. They do a good job on steaks. When you are all done they usually offer you a free dessert, coffee, or a large shot of their local booze. I ate at McDonald's once and was shocked that their hamburger prices were practically twice as much as they were in Sweden. It was fun checking out the food stores, they had large amounts of dried fruits, walnuts, hazelnuts, etc. out in the open and I noticed that almost everyone who entered that particular store took a handful and munched on them while shopping.

While I was in Tel Aviv, the entire city seemed a little stressed because of the risk of terror attack. On my second day there, the police shot and killed a suspected terrorist about 30 meters from my cab. We arrived at the scene about a minute or so after the fact, and people on the streets seemed pretty shocked. My cab driver didn't speak English so I collected the facts later. As it turned out, the terrorist was in reality a Palestinian car thief who had broken through a check point (NOT recommended). He crashed the car, then yanked an older couple out of a Volvo (just like GTA3). Then he drove the vehicle toward Tel Aviv. The cops caught up with him at Bnei Brak and literally riddled the Volvo using automatic weapons. Bnei Brak is a slummy place between Petah Tikva and Tel Aviv. From what I saw there, the population consists of Ultra-Orthodox Jews and immigrant workers. It looked like an interesting place to walk around in, but I didn't - it was just a place on my way to the training course.

It was a hassle getting out of Israel. A girl who came up to my chin interrogated me for an hour, asking all kinds of bizarre and even stupid questions. Q: "Why does your company do business with this Israeli company?" A: "To make money." They checked out all my baggage, made me turn on and open a file on my laptop. The file in question was in Swedish, so they got another girl who spoke Swedish and she read it. I realize how important it is to screen out potential terrorists, but after a half hour - forty-five minutes, I thought the whole thing was turning stupid. She questioned me for exactly 1 hour. So I figure families get 15 minutes, couples get a half hour, and single men travelling with light luggage get an hour. Single men travelling with light luggage who are of Arab descent probably go straight to jail and do not pass Go.

Because I was "working", I didn't see as much of Tel Aviv that I would have liked to. It is definitely an interesting place. Someday, the situation will be different and I will be able to convince Christina to take a vacation to Israel. It's so small that you can see anything in the country and make it back to your hotel the same day.