I visited Israel with a small Fujifilm digital camera in 2003. I was not a photographer then, I didn’t know how to compose a picture or what megapixels actually were, but I already loved taking pictures for memories.
I wanted to fly to Israel from Singapore, but there was no direct flight from Singapore then, so I had to fly to Bangkok to take an El Al airlines flight to Israel. It was a 10 hour flight from Bangkok to Israel, that is the longest I have ever been in a plane at one go. I don’t really enjoy flying that much so 10 hours seemed like an eternity for me.
Pre-flight security checks like no other airline.
The security checks before you board an El Al flight is one of the first things you will experience before you go to Israel. They check everything and I mean ‘everything’! All your suitcases have to go though the X-ray machine and once through the machine, you will have to open up everything for inspection by their staff. Every suitcase and hand-carry bag had to be opened for inspection, they then randomly took items for scanning.(for explosive materials I guess?). It was really thorough, they even asked me for my shoes and belt which they put through the scanner. I have to say though, after going through that security check and seeing other passengers go through the same check, I have never felt safer on any other airline.
Israel is beautiful.
Israel is indeed a beautiful country and I believe with all my heart that if it wasn’t for the troubles that she is having, it will have a thriving tourist industry. While there, I walked the steps of the Via Dolorosa, this is the actual route where our lord and savior Jesus walked while carrying the cross to his crucifixion. I visited the church of the holy sepulcher, I made a trip to the River Jordan, the site where Jesus was baptized. And also to the Western wall, the holiest place in the Jewish faith.
To actually be at these holy places, the places which are mentioned in the Bible, to stand in the same places where our lord and savior stood, was a truly a surreal and humbling experience for me.
Soldiers and police.
In a sad and mildly unsettling way, you will see the problems that this amazing country faces first hand. Many tour groups are protected by young men carrying M-16 assault rifles. A good number of Israeli police and soldiers are stationed around the Old city of Jerusalem and each soldier is armed with a few magazines of live rounds. (magazines are the containers which contain and feed bullets to the weapons) I could see that the bullets they had in their magazines were ‘live rounds’ because the magazines where sticking out of some of the soldier’s bags and having served in the Singapore army as a gunner myself, I knew the difference between a blank and a live round. Besides soldiers and policeman being stationed around the country, I also noticed that outside most restaurants, there will be a security guard with a metal detector and a handgun. During the time I visited, there were some bomb attacks thus I believe that contributed to the high level of security throughout the country.
Many shops keep canaries as pets.
Another thing I noticed was that many shops I visited kept canaries as pets. I read somewhere a few years after my visit that canaries are very sensitive to the air they breath, so sensitive that they can die from mild air pollution. That article reminded me of the canaries I saw in Israel and wondered if these birds are being kept as early warnings, to any form of chemical attack. I have not been able to confirm this so if anyone reading this article knows better, please let me know.
I actually lost a lot of my pictures when my computer crashed a few years ago but luckily I had printed them out so it was not a total loss. I saved some Digital photos separately in a thumb drive, I am not sure why I did that but am happy I did. ( The Lesson I would like to share here is: Always back up your photos!)
I would really like to go back to Israel again someday and some day I will 🙂