Transit from Iraq to Israel.  Three days of work on the blog and getting adjusted.

Leaving Iraq was not as easy as coming – we had no exit visa…  Almost simultaneously, the four of us who tried to make it through the passport control were stopped.  Exit visa?  Geoff in all of his years of travel had never heard of such a thing or ever needed one.  Thank goodness, we had the official from the Ministry of Culture with us who was there just for such a moment.  After some arguing and assigning blame for this or that wrong stamp, we were let go.

With Turkish Airlines, my 30 kg suitcase made it through to Tel Aviv.  Any other airline and I would have been in deep trouble or would have had to dish out lots of money.  I bought a few things…

At the Istanbul airport, we had the most expensive big beer any of us had ever had, but it really felt good to reminisce and to enjoy the final parting hours together with Geoff, Alma and Kulvinder.

I boarded another Turkish Airline flight to Tel Aviv.  From the Middle East, Jordan and Turkey are just about the only places that fly into Israel.  I worried about hours of questioning at the Israeli border because of my previous travels.  Even though I used my fresh American passport to enter Israel, I was not about to lie about my whereabouts.  My suitcase alone spoke volumes with luggage stickers from all over the world.

But I only faced three questions:  Are you traveling alone?  Do you know anyone in Israel?  How long will you stay?  And within one minute I had my entry stamp and proceeded.

Israel!  My final stop.  I have six weeks here and hope to be able to slow down again.  Two weeks of it will be real vacation as David and my friend Maria with her husband will come to spend time with me. The remaining time will be divided between meeting people and visiting historical sites.

It was the first night of Passover.  How would I get from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem?  I feared the worst.

But have faith! There were the minibuses – a shared taxi system of sorts operated by Arab Israelis and aside from the driver speeding along the empty road like the devil incarnate while making calls on one or another of his three cell phones, all was well.  I was dropped off within a manageable distance, given my 30 kg suitcase and arrived at Kaplan Hotel off Jaffa street only blocks away from the old city.

To the sounds of Hassidic men singing passover songs right across the street from my hotel room I fell asleep.  That was a very special welcome!

Good night.

P.S.  It took me three days to work through sorting and tagging all the photographs from Iraq and to process the blog images.  Nothing much else happened.  I got out for  a few hours each day just not to get stir crazy.  The next big event will be the Easter weekend.  That’s what I am here for.


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