Day One in Israel: Time waits for no man – nor I for a late driver
I arrived in Israel on Friday, the first day of the
Israeli weekend, hoping to enjoy the luxurious Shabbat before starting a rather
intense run of meetings bright and early Sunday morning through Wednesday
afternoon. No sooner had I landed, however, than I discovered a leisurely
Shabbat may not be in the cards. No
driver. Usually, when I come to Israel my hosts
send a car to meet me. Don’t get me
wrong, I don’t mind taking a taxi. It’s
easy and at 120 shekels (about $30) cheaper than most airport-to-downtown
rides. But you just expect that if you
are being invited to a city for a special event that a car would be
Instead, I was waiting. But not for much time. After about 15 minutes of lingering in the
meeting area of Ben Gurion, and scanning for drivers outside, I gave up and
took a taxi. Later I found out that my
hosts had indeed sent a driver who apparently lost track of the time.
In my twenty or so trips to Israel – trips I have enjoyed to an
extent that is hardly describable – I have come to understand a bit the Israeli
conception of time. You can imagine a
country that lives an entire 200 year history crammed into 50 action-packed
years that time would be quite relative. In Israel,
people are either in a tremendous hurry, or in absolutely no hurry at all. There does not seem to be a middle ground.
At the hotel, the front desk checked my reservation and saw
I was scheduled only for one night. Again, a very different conception of time. :-\ I
protested that I have a confirmation number given to me by my hosts confirmed
through Thursday. The desk said they
would look for a room and would call me “soon.” “When?” I asked, “Tonight?, Tomorrow?” “Soon,” was the reply.
They say that on Shabbat (Saturday) there is no time. You can certainly feel it. Israelis take their Shabbat seriously. It is a day which even the least religious
person sets apart to be different – time with family, with friends. Stopping time for a day every week seems like
an excellent recipe for sanity.
I spent my Shabbat in Israel waiting for the hotel mess to
get straightened out (“breakfast is not included?!” sidebar>you can’t
appreciate how important a point breakfast is until you’ve experienced the
epicurean indulgence of an Israeli hotel breakfast), then a good book, quite a
few cups of café afouk (literally upside down coffee, similar to a cappuccino)
and a swim in the bath water warm Mediterranean.
Tomorrow morning, my colleague Eleanor Dallaway, an editor
for Elsevier magazines in London,
will join me for four days of meetings with each of the I-Safe cluster of