YAVNE, ISRAEL: Who says young Israelis are inconsiderate?
Not this scrivener.
Lousy, frighteningly bad drivers, perhaps, but not inconsiderate.
MIA-MAD-TLV AND BACK
We flew Iberia (AA code share with more modest pricing): MIA-MAD-TLV and back.
Tried to get Iberia boarding passes on line. Unable to get passes. The same situation on the way back to the U.S. Apparently Iberia wants the business of travelers to Israel, but doesn't mind inconveniencing them.
Jet way at MIA; stairs and buses at MAD and TLV. For a geezer with a cane and carry-ons, another inconvenience. Return flight the same thing.
The MIA-MAD flight attendants (FAs) were OK, unlike the FAs between MAD and TLV. By contrast, the FAs on both legs of the return trip were great.
The MAD to TLV plane, parked in the "outer 40," was guarded by police; the only other place I have seen police presence near an Israel-bound plane was at Amsterdam.
The departure from MAD to MIA was delayed about 30 minutes. Seems luggage for two passengers was loaded into the hold, but the passengers failed to show. It took security and Iberia personnel about 10 minutes to locate and remove the unattended luggage, and another 20 minutes to get take off clearance; the initial clearance expired before another slot opened. The flight arrived at MIA 30 minutes late; it's hard to make up time flying east to west (headwinds).
If anyone from Iberia reads this and cares, flight information is at the end of this file.
I never have been in an international terminal where the connecting flights were in the same area. At MAD, the A330s land/depart at Terminal U and A319 flights land/depart from Terminal R - same building but a LONG hike, and - as everywhere - via the Duty Free shops.
IN LINE IN LOD (a/k/a TLV)
Escaping the A319 from MAD - via stairs and bus - we managed to get to Israel passport control. We queued up in a line marked for PASSENGERS WITH ISRAELI DOCUMENTATION (e.g., passports and travel documents)
A young man walked over and asked if we had Israeli documents.
Answering in the affirmative, he directed our attention to a row of machines manned - more accurately, WOmanned - by several young adults. We went over to the machines and were walked through the process.
Documents read, photos taken, and small proof card printed out - just like in the U.S. Quicker for the lucky ones who got the opportunity to use the machines.
The Iberia Airbus A319, albeit packed, has a limited capacity compared to a A330, so our luggage was on the carousel shortly after clearing Passport Control. Green Line through Customs. We loaded our luggage onto two FREE baggage carts. My Favorite Son-In-Law (hereafter SIL) was waiting for us "on the other side." We were soon in Yavne, greeted by daughter, three grand kids and an American terrier who seems to welcome everyone to their home.
If anyone thinks a "pit bull" is a dangerous breed, you should see how daintily Kiwi takes cookies offered by the one-year-old twins, or allows them to take her toys without protest.
OVER THE RIVER
We made the trek from Yavne to Bet Shean and Grandmother's house via a ride to Rehovot in the daughter's car, a "sherut" ride to Tel Aviv's Central Bus Station, onward via Egged to Afula, and then another bus - not Egged - to Bet Shean.
Young people volunteered assistance to this cane-carrying geezer to get bags into and out of the buses' baggage areas. Helpless I am not, but the assistance was given sans request - there was something to be done so it was done. I'm proud of these young people.
We came back to Yavne Sunday morning - Israel works from Sunday to Friday; two-day weekends are uncommon here; buses are packed with soldiers heading back to base. Still, we found seats and travelled comfortably to a stop at one of Tel Aviv's train depots,
We bought geezer tickets to Yavne where The Daughter collected us at the train station. Trains in Israel mostly are double-deckers (with Wi-Fi and USB jacks), but some coaches have spots reserved for geezers who don't do well going up and down steps. Others are set up for people with bicycles. Similar to many local (e.g., TriRail, MARTA) trains.
VISITING A GOVERNMENT OFFICE
One of several reasons I came to Israel was to get an Israeli passport. For reasons known only to bureaucrats in Jerusalem, the Miami consulate was allowed only to grant me a traveler's document. When I visited Israel last year, I was told that without Israeli documentation I would not be allowed to enter, or, if I did manage to get in, I couldn't get out on my U.S. passport. (Fair enough, Israel gave me citizenship in 1978, but I had been entering & leaving on my U.S. passport.)
My Daughter & I went to the Interior Ministry office in Rehovot to get a passport. She's been here 10 years (6 longer than I was here) and knows how the system works. Having a grey beard with cane helped expedite things, too,
We found a clerk who took information from my travel document for the passport; he ignored the form I carefully completed - in Latin and Hebrew characters - and that tossed a monkey wrench into the works. Still, the following Monday when the passport was promised, the clerk got everything straightened out and the passport was issued at the Rehovot office.
Expensive document - 280 shekels plus more than $1000 airfare (more than half of which was taxes and fees).
For the record, when I lived in Israel, I never had a problem with any Interior Ministry local office; Jerusalem, on the other hand, is another story.
Having visited with Savta Raba (my wife's mother, my daughter's grandmother, and the great-grandmother of my grand children) and acquired my hot off the press passport, having become reacquainted with my twin grandsons, and having lots of hugs and kisses from my 5-year-old grand-daughter I was ready to face the return trip.
IN LINE IN LOD - Part 2
Long ago I developed the habit of being early to just about everything. I also dislike disrupting people's sleep to accommodate me, so I convinced my SIL to take me to Lod about 10:30 p.m. for a 6:25 a.m. flight. We got to the airport about 11 p.m. and we loaded my bags onto a baggage cart; SIL departed and I entered to check the boards for my flight.
Iberia and Alitalia passengers typically start at Area A; been there, done that. I wandered over to the Sweet Young Thing at the barrier and asked when inspections would begin for my flight. "At 1:15" a.m. she told me. Time for a nap.
A bit of a heads up. If you have an Israeli document, the expectation is that you speak Hebrew. If you don't - and I know many Israeli Anglos who do NOT speak Hebrew either because they cannot or will not learn - just tell the person you only speak whatever it is you speak.
At 1:15 I was in my preferred position: head of the line. At about 1:25, the staff was in place - only buses and trains run on time in Israel - and I was asked the usual questions, then passed on to another person who asked the same questions and marked my luggage as "acceptable." Since I had done this before - and since it was listed on the boards - I knew my boarding pass would be issued from one of 11 contiguous stations out of sight and separate from the rest.
I pushed the baggage cart to the area where the boarding passes are issued and waited. Fortunately, other people waiting for boarding passes on Alitalia and Iberia were friendly - in Hebrew and in English - so time passed companionably.
The Iberia crew finally showed up; a clerk checked my U.S. passport, accepted my suitcase - adding a wheelchair tag to it - I didn't know my luggage had a handicap; it's old and ragged, but … - and marked it Destination MIA. I was later to meet him again at the gate before boarding a bus to the waiting A319 to MAD.
Off to passport control. Once again, machines rule, but I had to have human intervention. It seems these are biometric readers, and to have them "read" the traveler's hand, the traveler needs a biometric key card. It's free. It took several tries before my hand gave a decent print - it's an age thing - but once done the machine "read" my hand and, without predicting my future, printed out an exit pass.
The exit pass was scanned at a gate similar to the scanners at many local train stations and the gate opened, allowing me access to the next check. Here I had my Israeli passport checked and went through the usual carry-on and body scan. Computer out of bag, but shoes and belt left on. I long for the old days when profiling ruled, but I suspect that the U.S. insists that machines check everything. It's the "golden rule"; those that have the gold, rule. (Profiling is banned by the courts in the U.S. as "racist.")
Feeling akin tostep on Christopher Robin dragging Pooh along (my carry-on), I made it to the Gate C1a waiting area. Fortunately there was an elevator to the bus level where I waited until the bus arrived.
A tip of the hat to the Iberia clerk who issued my boarding pass. He asked if I could manage the stairs to the plane. I foolishly said I would manage. (I did, albeit painfully.) Apparently another passenger told him assistance was needed; he arranged for a lift truck to take her to the plane so she could step off the lift onto the plane.
Roughly 22 hours later I was getting off an A330 at MIA.
MIAMI - NEXT STOP IS LAST STOP
I don't like the Madrid airport because of the hike between gates (see image, above), but MIA is impossible. I think I hiked more than a mile between the plane and the train. (In the "old" days of Eastern, National, and Pan Am, things were closer together and life - sans machines - was simpler.)
I followed the Americans and Canadians signs to a row of machines (similar to the ones in Israel and other U.S. international airports). A young man was standing by them and directed me to a specific machine … the only one working. He took my U.S. passport, placed it on the screen and pressed a few buttons; I glared at the camera, and out printed an exit coupon.
From there I hiked some more to yet another passport check where my exit coupon was confiscated. I moved on to the baggage collection area where I found my "wheelchair" bag already off the carousel. I loaded it onto a "Rent for $5" baggage cart (free in Israel) and Green Line'd toward TriRail.
But first …
Go down one flight (elevator) then cross the Greeter's area to another elevator to Level 3; get to Level 3 and abandon the $5 luggage cart (since it cannot pass the barrier).
Now, with backpack on back and dragging two suitcases and a cane, I "escape" to a bank of ticket machines.
Not the ticket machines I need, however. The ones for TriRail are at track level, so back onto an elevator and down a floor.
Bought my $3.75 ticket and waited for my train. Volunteers lent hands to get my 19 kilo bag on board - by this time I sadly realized I'm not 35 anymore - and I enjoyed my 30 minute ride to my destination station. There I called a neighbor who collected me and left me at my door by 7 p.m.
Believe me, after so many hours "in transit," sitting in a chair that's not in the air or on the rails is a pleasure.
IBERIA FLIGHT INFORMATION
MIA-MAD: IB 6124 (20 JUN) Seat 37A = OK FAs
MAD-TLV: IB3316 (21 JUN) Seat 21D = Antagonistic FAs
TLV-MAD: IB 3321 (5 JUL) Seat 23F = Good FAs
MAD-MIA: IB 6123 (5 JUL) Seat 37L = Very good FAs