Tuesday, July 29, 2014

7 Days Pinoy Solo Backpacking in Winter Israel

a very unbelievable self-guided trip inside the Promised Land
November 02 to November 10, 2013 

"Courage is a special kind of knowledge: the knowledge of how to fear what ought to be feared and how not to fear what ought not to be feared." - David Ben-Gurion

My 28th country to visit, 26th solo backpacking trip, 5th visa on arrival application encounter outside Southeast/Northeast Asia, 4th winter travel and usual budget do-it-yourself itinerary from arrival to departure.

Israel has been called the Promised Land because God promised Israel to the children of Abraham through Isaac, as the Old Testament states "And I will give to you and to your descendants after you, the land of your temporary residence, all the land of Canaan as an eternal possession and I will be a God to them." (Genesis 17:8). Romans kicked Israelites out. Arabs settled there for thousands of years then the Land came known as Palestine. British settled Jews there so land could be SHARED but neither party wanted that....

State of Israel, in its basic laws, Israel defines itself as a Jewish and Democratic State; it is the world's only Jewish-majority state. Israel has the highest standard of living in the Middle East and the third highest in Asia. According to the Torah, God promised the land to the three Patriarchs of the Jewish people. Israel is considered part of the Holy Land (together with areas of Jordan, Egypt and the Palestinian Territories). The 3 monotheistic religions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—all have historical ties to the region.


the only souvenirs I bought inside the Promise Land

mapping the 7-days journey in Israel

Israel Stay Permit

Israel Exit Permit

This another race against time, very short backpacking researched in somehow detailed manner has a compressed itinerary designed as follows: 

Basic Words to Remember;
hello - shalom;   thank you - toda;   I love you - ani ohev otach;   goodbye - lehitraot!
yes/no - ken/lo;   sorry - slicha;   please -   Bevakasha;   excuse me - bevekshah!
toilet - Sherutim;   train station - Rakevet;   airport - naht-BAHG

timezone - +0200H UTC;   capital - Jerusalem;   language - Hebrew
currency - Shekel 1ILS = 12 PHP = 0.28 USD

visa - Filipino's are visa on arrival in Tel-Aviv Airport (Ben Gurion)

Western Wall

Dome of the Rock

Interesting Facts about State of Israel: 
1. Israel is the one and only Jewish state in the world.
2. Israel is the only country in the world to revive an unspoken language.
3. Israeli universities produce more scientific papers than any country in the world per capita. Israelis consume the most fruits and vegetables per capita of any country in the world.
4. Jerusalem is home to over 2,000 archeological sites.
5. The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers were invented by Israeli Haim Saban.
6. Israel has the highest ratio of university degrees to the population in the world.
7. Twenty-four percent of Israel's workforce holds university degrees - ranking third in the industrialized world, after the United States and Holland - and 12 percent hold advanced degrees.
8. Israel is the only country in the world that entered the 21st century with a net gain in its number of trees.
9. Israel's $100 billion economy is larger than all of its immediate neighbors combined.
10. Israel has more museums per capita than any other country in the world.
11. The Dead Sea in Israel is the lowest place on earth, at 1,315 feet below sea level at its lowest point.
12. Israel has the largest fleet of aircraft outside of the U.S.

Departing from Rome Airport, Italy (another amazing race, death-defying moment)
As per experience by other travelers, even immigration security for a departing airline has somehow complicated treatment also in preparation for the "real deal" when arrived in Israel Ben Gurion airport. Thus, I carefully research what is the best airline that has relax interrogation before going to boarding gate and I found Easy Jet Airline (aside from having a cheapest fare of $100 only for 1-way trip). Here was my story;

1000H ETD St. Peter's Basilica (3hrs & 25mins before flight ETD)
Due to the fascination given by the Vatican State particularly the St. Peter's Basilica itself, I can't leave this place despite I've been here since 0730H in the morning. Walking from St. Peter's Basilica to Ottaviano-San Pietro metro station took around 1km. From this station up to Roma Termini Station (where my hostel checked-in is nearly located and the outbound station going to Fiumicino Airport) I arrived at 1030H.

1100H ETD my hostel in Rome (2hrs & 25mins before flight ETD)
I don't know why but I did not feel any adrenalin rush to push myself though I know the standard 3 hours prior flight departure, maybe because I already did online checked-in. When I purchased the train ticket, I chose the Leonardo Express for 14Euro rather than the standard train for 8Euro. Davinci Express has only 45mins travel but late departure time, standard train departs early but will arrive later than Leonardo Express. The train departed Roma Termini at 1152H.

Bethlehem's Church of Nativity, birthplace of Jesus Christ

Dead Sea, the lowest place on Earth

1225H ETA Fiumicino Airprot (1 hour before flight ETD)
I just totally forgot that my outbound destination is Tel-Aviv, Israel where we can find the most strict immigration security in the world. The moment this fact struck my mind, I immediately ran outside train station faster than speeding bullet. Good thing the ticket counter and the x-ray machine wasted my 5mins only but when I was in Passport control lane, what a very long queuing. Because this was a matter of life and death situation, I have to think and act fast. I asked the Immigration Officer at the booth directly if they can allow me to pass through the lane (its like wang-wang vip approach in Philippines), but the officer said "NO, go back to the lane". I still did not lose my patience and confidence to make this flight, I asked all travelers in-front of me to please can I passed them through as the boarding gate will be close in 10mins. Another fortunate moment as they are very kind enough to allow me. Then at the IO booth, the officer asked where was my visa to my outbound destination, I told him I'm visa-on-arrival. After around 1 min, IO Officer released me, fortunate moment for the 3rd time.

1300H ETA Rome Airport Boarding gate #14H (25mins before flight ETD)
Despite the fact that it took me around more than a kilometer walk from train station to check-in counter and another kilometer walk from IO booth to this gate carrying a backpack with more than 10kg weight, 1 sling bag with DSLR and 1 bag of souvenirs, I made it to the boarding gate lane. It was right, Easyjet has a relax security check-in compared to other airline bound to Tel-Aviv. Not just that, my flight has late boarding, fortunate moment for the 4th time on this day. As usual, I waited around 2mins to confirm that Filipino's are indeed visa upon arrival in Israel. 1330H ETD Rome, Thank you very, very much Central Europe :) 


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