It had been nearly 20 years since I had been to Israel and I was excited to have the opportunity to return with Israel Tourism.
The trip was focused around the city of Tel Aviv, but it would also give me a chance to spend some time with family.
Had to start the trip in New York, so left a day early to have dinner with my daughter. Mom met me in New York. Stayed overnight at Hampton Inn JFK to make sure we were both there long before our evening flight to Istanbul.
I had never flown them before and didn’t know what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised with great service, food, and even entertainment on the plane.
We slept for a couple of hours and woke up to breakfast at about 12:00 noon Turkey time.
We had been delayed so there was a mad rush to get to the plane. I was extremely impressed with the way they handled getting Mom, who was in a wheelchair, and I to the next plane on time.
Unfortunately, they didn’t do as well with getting Mom’s walker. We presumed it would meet us in Tel Aviv, but it actually was never found by Turkish Air and had to be replaced in Israel.
It was another pleasant flight and we were even served lunch as we headed on the two-hour flight to Israel.
Once in Tel Aviv, I can’t say the airport personnel were quite as helpful as the Turkish. It was Saturday, the Sabbath to many in the country, so I wrote it off as not the usual personnel working.
I picked up my rental car from Budget and loaded up Mom and the suitcase for the trip to Jerusalem.
The country of Israel is only about the size of New Jersey so it wasn’t too far of a drive anywhere.
Dan Panorama Hotel.
We checked in fairly quickly and went to our room to freshen up. We were pretty exhausted and decided to have an early dinner and head to bed early.
The buffet at the hotel was quite good, but staff here too seemed to be limited on Saturday.
Shortly after we finished eating I heard from my youngest cousin, Marge, that she couldn’t wait to see us.
She and her husband came over to the hotel. I hadn’t seen them in many years and it was great to know I’d see them more the next day.
It didn’t take long for Mom and I to head to the room and catch up on our sleep.
In the morning, we went down to the restaurant at the Dan Panorama Jerusalem for the first of many fantastic Israeli breakfasts I would eat.
The selection was huge and included something I had never seen before – halvah cakes.
I was always a fan of this sesame seed candy and would pick it up the rare times I would find it back home. It was always in bar form, but in Israel they had huge cakes with all different flavors.
I came to look for it at every hotel breakfast and make sure I saved room for this treat.
On Sunday and Monday, I had the pleasure of catching up with my cousins and my aunt. I also got my first glimpse in many years into the Israeli culture.
They had all grown up in Israel and now had families of their own. There were 17 children between the three of them and I got to meet most during a dinner we all understood well – pizza.
During that weekend, I had my first glimpse into a kosher McDonald’s.
In what seemed to me like a Saturday Night Live skit, my order for burgers and chicken was taken and then I had to go outside and in another door while the same guy who took my meat order went under a counter and came to take my milkshake and ice cream order!
(In keeping with kosher rules, the food was kept separate at all times.)
The kosher way of eating also had a huge impact on my diet. I was able to find more vegetarian and dairy meals since places were either meat or no meat.
I also was able to eat fish. My seafood allergy is severe enough that I had to give up all fish a few years ago. There was just too much cross contamination, but kosher fish can never come in contact with shellfish.
There would be many firsts to come on this trip to Israel, which would officially start the next day when I met the other journalists in Jerusalem.