Day 3: Heat and Colors

Trip Start May 19, 2009
Trip End Jun 16, 2009

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Friday, May 22, 2009

(Day 3, Eilat, 10:00pm) Last night, "hizdangafnu," which is a very particular Hebrew word, meaning "we walked on Dizengoff St.," a well-known commercial street in downtown Tel Aviv. We observed the busy restaurants and stores, the hustle and bustle, settling on a nice-looking outdoor restaurant called Ducks. Kevin enjoyed his lasagne; it took a few tries to get my burger order almost right. Alas, we didn't manage to meet up with our Israeli friend Malka, who was on her way home from Jerusalem. But we did stroll through a residential neighborhood to Rabin Square, a large plaza next to City Hall, where concerts and demonstrations take place. In fact, it was there on Nov. 4, 1995, that Prime Minister Rabin was assassinated after a massive peace rally, thus the square now bears his name. With the help of a nice young Israeli woman, we found the modest memorial to Rabin, whereupon she bid us farewell and told us to "make aliyah" (emigrate to Israel).

After a full breakfast at the Cinema and checking on the (disappointing) results of the American Idol finale this morning, we hopped a short cab to Sde Dov, a small airport for domestic flights in north Tel Aviv. Security there was much more rigorous than we went through in Newark, starting with a passport check and questioning at the entrance (while still in the cab), then the usual x-ray stuff and metal detector, followed by a prolonged and thorough interrogation by a polite, apologetic young woman, who now knows our life story. The small one-room terminal (including snack bar and baggage check-in) was controlled chaos. But soon enough, it was onto a bus to take us the half-mile to our propellor plane. We were in two of the four seats that faced backwards, but it was pleasant enough, albeit loud. (When my parents and I flew to Eilat in 1977, there literally were mounted fans blowing air across the aisle.) An hour later we were at Israel's southernmost point, the Red Sea resort of Eilat, whose small airport is smack downtown, the runway passing between a busy street and luxury hotels, ending just short of a beach.

The outdoor colors here are green, blue, and beige. The palms are green, the sea is many shades of blue, and everything else is desert and rocky hills rising above next-door Aqaba, the Jordanian city just a few miles away (and a few miles in the other direction is Egypt). Not complaining, though; I love this kind of terrain. But the heat is powerful: by mid-afternoon, it was 42 C (107.6 F)! ("But it's a dry heat.") After settling into our nice room with a view of the pool and the sea, we walked 20 mins. in the direction of Egypt to go to the Marine Park, an impressive complex with a well-known underwater observatory and an underwater boat trip, both featuring the spectacular coral and bounty of brightly colored fish of copious varieties. We took in other indoor and outdoor displays of marine life, including the shark, manta ray, and turtle tanks, and the displays of bioluminescent and rare fish. At the end was a film in the oceanarium about the wonders of the sea, in seats that moved and swayed and bumped along with the speedboats and divers and fish and sharks on the screen.

While Kevin recovered from the oppressive heat, I had just enough time for dip in the pool before it closed for the day. To end the day, we hopped a shuttle into town, walked along the bustling boardwalk full of souvenirs, beach restaurants, yogurt stands, and henna tattoos, passed up the "Sling Shot" (being shot high into the air in a spinning ball), and had a nice shawarma dinner near the beach, amongst all the massive resort hotels, the evening having dipped to a comfy 82 F.
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