My flight leaves tomorrow morning. The trip is a 20-hour affair, which I hope my trusty Tommy gear (eye mask + noise-canceling headphones) will render tolerable.
I've been to Israel just twice before in my life. The first time was around 1985 (or maybe '86) and I was with Paula. We were living in Izmir, Turkey, where I was stationed for 2 years with the US Air Force. I don't remember much about that visit, or what sightseeing we did, if any, outside of Jerusalem.
The second trip was in 1993, immediately after I was released from my hitch in the Marine Corps. I was with Talia then, Daniel's mom. (TNG himself didn't come onto the scene until 1995.) Again, I remember very little; I know we saw Jerusalem and Tsfat (which is inexplicably spelled Safed in English), and stayed for a couple of days in Eilat in these budget-priced accommodations that looked like steel doghouses. (Were the air conditioning in one of these to fail, I imagine it would become uninhabitable in minutes.)
I know that on both trips I visited all the obligatory sites - the Kotel of course, the Old City, the Knesset building, Yad vaShem, the Tomb of the Patriarchs (at least once), and more graves of famous rabbis than I can remember, or care to.
But I never saw Tel Aviv.
Later, when speaking with Israeli friends, I'd mention that I had visited Israel twice, and seen Jerusalem. "Did you see Tel Aviv?" No. And their reaction was invariably, "WTF?!? How do you visit Israel and not see Tel Aviv?" And I didn't have a good answer to that.
This time I want to see Tel Aviv. It's a modern, cosmopolitan, traditionally secular city; and that's the side of Israel, the modern side that lives in the here-and-now, that I didn't expose myself to in my earlier, mostly religiously-oriented pilgrimages.
I am planning to reconnect with Paula, who now lives in a little town called Arad. I'll also try to get to Be'ersheva and meet up with a couple of families from the Mission community who are living there now.
I will surely make a trip or two to Jerusalem and see the holy sites; but mainly, it's Tel Aviv that I'm excited about seeing. Life is to short to spend all your time running around looking at graves.
There aren't any angels in heaven
I'm here with you, right in between