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Israel 2008 (English)

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From 21st to 25th of April 2008 the 15th Israeli Juggling Convention took place. Good reason for Birgit and Jan to fly to Israel and - if we are there anyway - to stay another week in Israel afterwards.

As Jan's SD memory card was broken, unfortunately all our convention pictures are lost. However there are pictures from the following jugglers:


We have pictures from the following sections of our journey (taken with a new memory card):

Tel Aviv II

Outbound Flight

We took wing from Munich airport in the night between 19th and 20th of April. The way to most departure gates seemed to be quite short. However, for our flight we had to walk very long distances inside the airport. This gave us the feeling to walk to Israel by foot.
After a luggage inspection which was only a bit stricter then normally we could fly into the summer.

After landing in Ben Gurion airport the fun was over for a while. We had to pass 3 different passport controls. Two of them were inofficial, but anyway, during each control we were bothered with never ending silly questions: What the purpose of our journey is; if we have any relatives or friends here; what we want to do in detail; where we want to sleep etc.
During the first interrogation we mentioned the convention. That was a mistake because this information caused unnumbered further questions: what a "juggling convention" is; if we are professional jugglers; how we heared about the convention; if we had any written information about it etc. Birgit showed a printout which did not contain any logo, because of copy&paste. This has been criticized immediately. After some further questions about our plans, the youth hostels where we wanted to sleep etc. at last we could go to the official passport control where the next interrogation took place.
We decided not to mention the convention any more, but only to go on holiday. More questions were following in a similar style. Questions about the father's and grandfather's name and some more. Then we passed our last passport control for this day. Beside the usual questions we had to answer which relationship we had to each other, how long we know each other yet etc. All in all very annoying.

Tel Aviv I

We had arrived very late in the night at Ben Gurion. Besides it was the night after a Shabbat, and it was Pessach. So no train or bus was going, and that's why we had to take a taxi. In order to take a taxi at the Ben Gurion airport you have to stand in a row at a taxi station. You get a ticket with a waiting number and the information what the ride will cost. That's better organized than anywhere in Germany, even if the germans are considered as "well organized" in Israel also.
The taxi brought us to the Hayarkon Youth Hostel in Tel Aviv, a hostel near the beach with better showers than ours at home.
A walk at the beach revealed the following:
  • In Tel Aviv the sidewalks are NEVER rolled up. There's always something going on, no matter what time it is.
  • The beach is full of rubbish.
  • Air planes landing on Ben Gurion airport fly directly over the beach.
The next day we visited the old city of Jaffa. Jaffa is much older than Tel Aviv itself. Meanwhile those two cities grew together and officially Jaffa is now a part of Tel Aviv. However the aura is very different. In the old Jaffa the city scape is formed by historical buildings and different cultures and religions. On the other hand the skyline of Tel Aviv is formed mainly by skyscrapers.
On our way through Jaffa a christian church drew our attention. Actially it was not the church itself but the masses of people in front of it and the bell which rang very obstrusively. The people were all dressed up to the nines. A few of them wore black robes with colored stripes and strange hats. Some boys fluttered with palm leafs. We don't know yet what was celebrated there, but maybe it was a sort of Palm Sunday tradition we don't have in Germany.
Later on our way through Jaffa we stopped for a second to watch our map. Instantly a passer-by asked if he could help us and told us about what is worth seeing in Jaffa.

Monday was the day where the convention started. We took a sherut to the central bus station for to take a bus. A sherut is something like a cross between a bus and a taxi. Somewhere on the way the driver stopped suddenly and opened the door for an older man. They talked to each other shortly. Then the driver bowed his head. The old man held some herbs under the driver's nose and the driver took an intensive smell on them. Then the old man put his hands on the driver's head and said some words, probably a bless. Then he disappeared and the driver drove on normally. We don't know what kind of ritual that was, and also the people we asked later could not tell us what that could have been.

The central bus station in Tel Aviv is a huge building with 7 floors. We had to pass a security check before we could enter. We had to open all the luggage, show all metal objects, go through a metal detector - the usual procedure in Israel.

Gan Hashlosha

We wanted to go from Tel Aviv to Bet She'an and from there to the Gan Hashlosha national park where the convention should take place. But there was no bus to Bet She'an. So we took the bus to Afula and from there another bus towards Bet She'an. While entering the bus we met David who was also going to the convention. He recognized instantly that we are jugglers. With a hebrew speaking fellow traveller it was much easier to instruct the driver to tell us when we are in Sahne. When we got off the bus it was very hot. But it should get even hotter, up to at least 40 degrees.
After putting up our tent we went to the hall where we registered and saw some jugglers which we already knew from the last two EJCs.
After a few minutes of training Jan was asked to participate at the Avi Rosenberg Memorial Competition at the evening. Avi Rosenberg was a famous Israeli juggler who died in a car accident in the year 2000. Since then his family provides a creativity contest every year at the Israeli Juggling Convention. Every second year the contest is about 3 clubs, and in the other years 3 balls. This year it was a 3 ball contest. Jan decided to take part and won the third price.
On Tuesday we moved our tent to a different place. Beside us two jewish families were camping who offered us to help us with shopping and everything else you can imagine. At the other side of our tent there were jugglers from Tel Aviv. We often had our meal together with them.
On Wednesday Jan went to a workshop in sign language. Interestingly there is no common sign language between different countries. Deaf-mutes from Israel use another sign language then deaf-mutes in China or Germany.
On Thursday our jewish neighbours invited us to dinner with matza brei. As leavened bread is forbidden during Pessach a common replacement is matza. Pure matza does not taste very good, so Rosie served us matza brei - a porridge made out of matza, egg, and spices. In fact "Brei" is the german word for "porridge". The matza brei was really delicious. However for very religious jews it is not kosher enough as flour must not have contact with water more than 18 minutes if you eat it on Pessach.
All in all we received very many addresses and invitations during the convention - too many invitations to accept them all during the next week. Israeli people (especially jugglers) are so friendly!

Ein Gev

After the convention we went with Maor, a friend we've met at the convention, to the Kibbutz of Ein Gev where Maor had grown up. The Kibbutz is located at the Lake Kinneret. From the cost we could see Tiberias at the other side. The sight was beclouded a bit by fog. Maor told us that you can see every house in Tiberias when there is no fog. In the summer of 2006 it was the first time since 1967 that Tiberias was shot with missiles. We remembered: at the EJC in Ireland 2006 we met some jugglers from Israel and when we returned home we heared from the news that there is war again. It had been a strange feeling.
But Ein Gev was not shot in 2006. In earlier wars that was different. Before 1967 the Golan Heights belonged to Syria and the Kibbutz was directly at the border. During the wars the children of the kibbutz had to go into the cellar for long times. After the fights the children got a disused military airoplain as a present which now serves as a toy.

In former times life in the kibbutz was very socialistic. Maor can remember times where not even clothes were private property. In the summer you took the clothes you liked and in the winter you returned them and took winter clothes instead. But capitalism proceeded even in the kibbutz and so this principle was given up. Even in the dining hall there is some sort of mony-like paying system now while in former times everybody just helped himself. However, other principles are still alive. The motto "Everybody contributes what he can; everybody gets what he needs" still applies. If you live in the kibbutz you can either work for the kibbutz free of charge or you can work externally. In the latter case the kibbutz gets your salary. Therefore the kibbutz provides food, medical care, cars, and everything else you need.

After a night in the kibbutz and a little swimming in the Lake Kinneret we went for a walk into the mountains. On the way back we watched the ostrich farm of the kibbutz. Then we took a bus in order to go to Jerusalem. The plan was to go to Zemah and to take another bus to Jerusalem from there. The bus driver answered our "Jerusalem" with a "Tel Aviv" until a passenger helped us to instruct him to drop us in Zemah. Actially he didn't drop us at a bus station, but anywhere in Zemah. So we had to walk with all our luggage to the bus station. Then we realized that probably there was no bus to Jerusalem. It was Saturday and - like one of our tent neigbours had said during the convention - on Shabbat the country is closed.
At the bus station there was already a man trying to hitchhike. As time went by more and more people came and tried the same. Most of them were men and as car drivers tend to stop more often for women it was Birgit's turn to try her luck. She stopped several cars, but most of them were on the way to a different direction. So some other hitchhikers took those cars until Birgit succeeded to stop a car which brought us to Hadera. The driver was an extreme friendly woman. While driving she phoned with her mother and her sister and instructed them to find out bus and train connections to Tel Aviv and from there to Jerusalem. With hindsight it would have been better to go straight from Ein Gev to Tel Aviv with the bus but that's something you notice afterwards.


We arrived at the central bus station of Jerusalem a view minutes before 10 pm. There we waited for a bus to go to Ramat Raziel. That's the Moshav where the jewish family of nine lives which had camped beside our tent and invited us to visit them. In Ramat Raziel we went through the gate and then we started the search. The house of the family has a house number but no street name. First of all we were welcomed by several dogs which lived in the village until we found a human stopping with his car at his house. We asked him whether he knew the family but he didn't know the name. But he made his mobile phone available to us so that we could call the family. Nobody answered the phone. A second car was stopping and taking our luggage and us in order to search for the house. Describing the family with "religious" and "seven children" was enough for him to know where to look.

The family welcomed us with open arms. The house was chaotic and comfortable. One of the first things we were shown was the snake which Joshie had received as his Bar Mitzvah present. He wanted a snake since he was 3 years old. So he was promised to get the snake at his Bar Mitzvah hoping that he would forget the snake until then. But he did not forget it and so he got the snake at last. That was quite exactly 2 years ago because some minutes later it was mitnight and Joshie turned 15.

The next morning Michael, the father of the family, drove us to Jerusalem. First we went to a shopping mall where Jan bought a new camera. The old one was broken meanwhile - at least we thought it was broken until we found out that it was the memory card which did not work any more: the card on which all the convention pictures were stored.
After several odysseys with different busses we reached the Jaffa Gate. From there we explored the old city of Jerusalem.
The streets of the old city are mainly hidden under arches and are full of sparkling and glimmering tourist shops. Carpets, clothes, and other goods are hanging everywhere and masses of dealers try to get people to buy anything.
Then we reached the western wall. In order to get there we had to pass another security check. The area in front of the wall is devided by a fence. The larger part on the left side is reserved for men, while women have to go to the shorter part on the right side. When we arrived there, only a few people in black and white where on the left side while the right side was crowded by masses of women in colorful clothes.
We could not visit the Temple Mount because the moslems were celebrating a holiday there. So we went along the Via Dolorosa. Then we searched and found a geocache before we returned to Ramat Raziel.
The next day we visited the Temple Mount. Therefore we had to pass another security control. We could watch the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock only from outside because only muslims are allowed to enter. In the afternoon we met Joshie at the Jaffa Gate and went to friends of the family with him. They had garded our luggage for us so that we could avoid to return to Ramat Raziel and fetch it from there. With the luggage we went to the central bus station where we missed the bus to Ein Gedi. So we had to wait 4 hours for the next bus.


In the middle of the night we arrived at the oasis Ein Gedi. Apart of us four other backpackers got off the bus. Two of them came from New Zealand and the other two from Australia. We all wanted to stay at the youth hostel but unfortunately it was already full. The man at the reception phoned with the Masada guest house what was a view kilometers away. In Masada there was still enough space for us which he reserved for us. They also organized someone to bring us from Ein Gedi to Masada for little money. Of cause there was not enough space in the car for a driver, six passengers and the luggage. So we let the other four very tired people go first and waited for the second ride. Meanwhile we talked with another employee of the youth hostel, who gave us some tea, about his german relatives who lived in Crailsheim.

The Masada youth hostel was twice as expensive as the one in Tel Aviv but it was extremely luxurious. It was more like a residence than like a youth hostel. The first night we slept in different dorm rooms with 6 beds. The next night we got a room with 2 beds for the same price. Normally it would have cost more but this day several school classes arrived. We think that the big dorms were needed for the classes.
The breakfast at the residence was a really great experience. Afterwards we went to the fortress of Masada. Once it was build by King Herod but in the year 70 it was used by jewish rebels as a protection against the romans. As the romans attacked the fortress with a battering ram and the end was near the defenders (less than 1000 people) decided to kill themselves rather than getting enslaved by the romans.
The sight from Masada into the desert landscape, the mountains, and the dead sea is indescribable. You can still see the rest of the roman battle camps.
In the afternoon we went to Ein Boqeq to the beach of the dead sea for swimming. Unfortunately Birgit could not go into the water. Of cause she tried that but her feet were wounded and the salty water was too painful. Swimming in the dead sea is very weird. Going down is just not possible. You can put arms and legs out of the water and nothing happens. While wading into the sea you already feel how the lower legs are pressed up by the water.
The next day we planned to get up at 4:45 in the morning in order to watch the sunrise. Unfortunately the alarm bell of Birgit's mobile phone did not ring. So we have to do that next year. We took the bus to Jerusalem and then another bus to Tel Aviv where Maor welcomed us.

Tel Aviv II

While we had slept in the house of his grandmother in Ein Gev, now we saw Maors own home what was already an experience. From outside his house looked like something between a garage and a shed like most houses in the street. A padlock was used for locking the door. Also from inside his home reminded of a shed. However it was much more comfortable than it looked from outside. A stair was going up where his spanish housemate lived.
First we went to Jaffa again - however this time we didn't go there as tourists but together with locals. We stopped at Abu Hassan which is - in the opinion of many of our friends - the best hummus restaurant of Israel. We also met Eran whom we also know from the convention. Then we went to the beach and met Oren and David - also convention jugglers.
The next day was holocaust day. At 10 am all sirens sounded in order to remind of the victims of the holocaust. Unfortunately we just got up at this time so that we missed this ceremony. Maor had to leave quite soon as he works as a juggling teacher at different schools. So Eran picked us up later. We went to the city where he showed us the last remaining church and the last mosque of Tel Aviv. Only in Jaffa there are more churches and mosques left. We tried to find another geocache but we didn't succeed. Then we went to Abu Hassan again where we met Maor, Oren, and Nahmer - all convention jugglers. After lunch we went to a juggling meadow where Oren took some photos from us with Birgit's GPS machine for a local news paper from Tel Aviv. Later a reporter called us and interviewed Birgit. The paper wanted to report about geocaching.
In the eveneng we returned to Maor's home for the last time. Then we went to the station in order to go to the airport.

Return Flight

At the station we had to pass another security check with metal detector, passport control, and silly questions about where we want to go and so on. But that was nothing against the procedure at the airport. Our backpacks were not only scanned but searched manually. Everything - even our passports - were scanned for explosives or whatever. Especially Birgit's backpack was unpacked completely. Every single part of her luggage was scanned intensively and manually.

However the security issues were very annoying our holidays were great. So we are looking forward to next year.

Characteristics Regarding Israel

The following descriptions are neither complete nor objective. They are about things which caught our eye by watching, talking with locals etc.


The people are extremely friendly and helpful.
You make friends very quickly. We came to Israel without really knowing anyone. At the end we had many new friends distributed all over the country and so many invitations that we could not accept them all.
Children in Israel are much different then in Germany. Most german kids are shy and timid. The other ones are rude instead. Children in Israel are not at all shy. However they are also not rude but polite and friendly instead.

Bus System

There are no ticket machines. You get your tickets directly from the driver and nowhere else. If you have to change the bus you have to pay again in the next bus. In Germany you normally can use different busses with the same ticket. But the ticket prices in Israel are much lower than in Germany as the busses are subsidised by the country. Like everything else in Israel also (and especially) the busses are crowded not only by civilians but also by soldiers who are armored with machine guns.
At most bus stops there are labels which tell which bus line stops there normally but you cannot see when the busses stop. Even if you manage to find out the official schedule somehow, it is normal that the busses are 15 minutes too early or 30 minutes too late.


Religion and culture are connected very strongly. If the parents are jews then the children are automatically also jews no matter if they want or not - even if they do not believe at all. The formal religion is recorded in the passport and cannot be terminated. Many Israelis think that it's weird that in Germany everybody can simply quit his membership in the church, and then he is not a christian any more.
The practice of the religion is very non-uniform. Several subcultures have e.g. very different points of view about what is kosher or what you are allowed to eat on Pessach. Color and form of the head covering partly depends also on the way how people believe. So the Kippah of very orthodox jews is mostly black or replaced by a black hat. Depending on the details of his believes the front of the hat can be curved up or down.


In Israel everybody has to go to the army - 3 years for men and 2 years for women. A civil service does not exist and denying the military service is not easy, especially for men. Most deniers use (actual or simulated) health impairments. Pacifism is normally not accepted as a reason for conscientious objection. Extreme orthodox jews who go to special religious schools can deny with the argument that the food in the army is not kosher enough for them.
One of our friends (we don't mention his name here) didn't go to the army. (Quotation: "I don't believe in the army.") Therefore he was put into jail for 2 months before they let him be. Another friend of us denied the military service for the same reason but he was not arrested. It is not known how many deniers there actially are because Israel does not provide any statistics about that.

Security Measures

There are security controls at all bigger places like train stations, central bus stations, or shopping malls. Before you can enter such a place your luggage is searched. Then you have to put off all metal and go through a metal detector. From time to time this procedure is accompanied by a passport control and silly questions about where you come from, where you want to go, and so on. Many Israelis find it weired that in Germany you can go to places without being controlled.

zuletzt geändert am 08.02.2009 um 22:08