We Meet the Ride

So, El Al went on strike this week. Not so bad for us, but many of our co-travelers had their plans forcibly changed. For us, this meant that the early Ramah bus from Ben Gurion Airport did not happen (the large group of El Al passengers on the early flight all came later), and we got to spend a few more hours in Tel Aviv. Mostly, this consisted of Derek getting to swim laps in the gorgeous Gordon Pool, a fifty meter spring fed salt water facility a few blocks north of our hotel, while I relaxed on a lounge chair in the shade listening to podcasts.

(Also, I had a little of the chocolate cake at breakfast today. So sue me.)

Then, to go a little native and to save a lot of money, instead of taking a cab back to the airport, we walked to Dizengoff, took the number 5 Eged bus north to the train station, and hopped the train to the airport. Two highlights: First, we had to put our luggage through a metal detector to get into the train station. No pat downs or restrictions on water bottles or anything like that, but it’s a small reminder that life hear is not entirely like life back home. Second, the train staff was wonderfully helpful to me. When we got off at the airport, the conductor on the train called for the station manager, who grabbed my luggage and led me up to the information desk at airport arrivals so we could find our group. I didn’t catch his name, but thanks to him.

We met up with three more riders, Mark, Robin and Triss, and were collected by Ride staffer Yoni, who took us to the van and on to Jerusalem. On the way, he pointed out the spots where we went through nominal checkpoints out of and then back into the ’67 borders, and the wall along the highway separating Israel from the West Bank. His explanation was…polished. I can’t recall the words exactly, but I could hear some elision of very deep and troubling issues. He is an experienced tour guide, and I don’t think shades of gray serve tour guides here very well. It was a slightly off note in an the otherwise congenial chit-chat of our drive.

Arrival at the Crown Plaza was boisterous. Lots of people introducing themselves, checking in, and getting fitted up on our bikes for the ride tomorrow. We have a very nice white and red Cannondale tandem, supplied by the Israel Guide Dog Center.

After a little rest, we met everyone downstairs for a large buffet dinner. Getting downstairs was a little challenging. It seems everyone in the hotel was trying to get to food at once, including what appeared to be the guest of a very big wedding, so we had to pass on about 8 full elevators before we made it down ourselves.

The food was decent, but I always forget that kosher meat can make you feel like you’ve eaten an entire bag of potato chips. Water. Please.

Finally, introductions, thank yous, and logistics from Rabbi Mitch Cohen of National Ramah and our staff. Mitch was extremely gracious introducing Derek to everyone as the only other clergyman in the room. The highlight, though, was the introduction of the doctors–there are seven of them riding or hiking–including, helpfully and to everyone’s half-ironic, half-serious delight, 2 cardiologists.

Tomorrow, we ride.