On this particular trip, I left Israel to head to France, the third and final location where I will be interning (faire stage). I was a bit sad to leave my friends and felt like I hadn't managed to have quite as much of a vacation as I would have liked (I also still managed to break my promise to myself to go to the Dead Sea, my third consecutive trip to Israel on which I've sinned in this manner). However, I was also really excited to be heading to France - both because of all the wonderful things I imagine France has in store for me (professionally, personally, culturaly, adventurally ;-) and because I am so excited to finally be living in my own apartment with just Linda and I, a real kitchen and no house boys living on beds outside our front door! I'm also really looking forward to luxuriating in the bath tonight; I haven't had bath since I left the States, almost half-a-year ago now.
So I got to Ben Gurion 2000 airport (construction completed 2004) without much event. Although there was minor event. Namely on our sherut (airport shuttle) there were 4 Israeli Arabs, I noticed this mostly in passing when I heard Arabic, although it was brought to the forefront of my attention when our sherut was stopped at the airport security gates, and they were asked to get off, remove their luggage, and undergo inspection. This took 15 minutes or so. And of course, the one true tourist on the sherut who just had to take a picture of everything, no matter how banal (this would be me in India ;-) decided it would be a good idea to snap a shot of the Arab passengers being escorted off the sherut by Israeli security. This obviously did not go over well with said security officers.
Some rapid apologizing and picture erasing ensued, although thankfully the tone stayed light after the initial angry response by one of the security guards (who I think may have initially thought the tourist was a peace provocetour or somesuch and was thus gearing up for a big and nasty argument). The Arab passengers were cleared and we all finally went on our way. Unlike Linda who tells me she was grilled as a potential terrorist, I was waved through security, bypassing even the pre-check-in luggage screening. I checked in, went through customs and got to see the airport. Boy is it different than the old Ben Gurion.
First off you enter through a gorgeous Jerusalem stone lined passageway whose wall is currently an exhibition of Israeli poster art (featured here is one I really liked of the generations intertwining).
Shortly afterward, I arrived in the main outbound waiting area of Ben Gurion. It was a circular space centered about a large skylight through whose edges water fell into a pool below. This structure was surrounded by really fancy (and comfy looking) leather chairs, a walkway, kiosks, another walking area and finally stores. It was really impressive. Free wifi was available throughout the entire airport and the kosher falafel wasn't bad, although it was fairly overpriced.
So eventually I had to leave the wonders of Ben Gurion 2000 to fly to Prague which turned out to be quite interesting. The flight went smoothly and I got through customs equally so and then stopped at a duty-free store on my way to the gate.
What I found there was interesting - namely a row of different types of Absinthe , the green-colored liquour that is rumored to cause hallucinations and a trigger brilliant onset (in certain legends Van Gogh was purported to have drunk this before cutting off his ear) - the current CW is that it doesn't do much at all beyond alcohol.
Additionally they had Cannabis Vodka - which apparently is vodka flavored with Cannabis seeds (not psychoactive stuff since THC doesn't reside in seeds).
Both seemed like neat things to buy, but I decided to save my money and went to the gate.
That's where I met Idan Raichel, the man behind the Idan Raichel Project .
He was at the counter joking with the attendants, trying to make sure his luggage would get tranfered in time for his connecting flight. He started offering them CDs and then I thought to myself, what Israeli with rasta dreadlocks would be offering CDs except for Idan Raichel. So I asked him "Are you Idan Raichel?" to which he responded "Yes, you know who I am?". He seemed half suprised, and I assured him that "of course I knew him - he's an Israeli music superstar". He then offered me a CD to help get the baggage transfered to which I replied that I'd be happy to have the CD but couldn't guarantee that I'd be able to do anything helpful with the baggage. He had his concert manager give me a CD anyway :-) He also took a picture with me which you can see at the beginning of this post. For those of you who aren't familiar with his music, check out the link I posted above - it's really good stuff, which I've been enjoying while writing this post. Hopefully I'll get to enjoy another of his concerts in the not-too-far future (last one I saw was downtown at the Museum of Jewish Heritage with Linda and our friend Marni, a month or two before we left the States).