Thursday April, 2 - Brussels —> Tel-Aviv —> Jerusalem

Friday 1 January 2010
popularity : 90%

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D – day at last ! - 2 p.m. : the 11 of us - Tanguy, Louise, Laetitia, Julien, Guirec, Théodore, Marine, Diane, Bénédicte, Anne-Claire and Sophie - meet at Brussels North Station where we take the shuttle to Bierset Airport... Two hours later, we are going through the customs and check-desks, closely keeping to the watchword : total discretion as to the actual aim of our trip...

In the boarding room, a group of orthodox Jews, men and young boys, are praying and swaying back and forth in rhythm, a scene that looks a bit strange to us : we are not accustomed to it... On the plane, there seem to be only Jewish families, with lots of very young children, all probably on their way to celebrate Pessoah in Jerusalem.

After a four- and- a- half- hour- long flight, we land in Tel Aviv and are called one by one at the passport control-desk where we are asked questions - who, what, why, how long for - that give us an uneasy feeling : we are not used to being controlled that way. We tell the officers that we are on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem for Easter.

- "Two weeks in Jerusalem?", the soldier wonders.
- "A whole life would still be too short", Tanguy answers gently.

We have another little stress a few minutes later : while we think we have made it and are all walking to the airport exit doors, Marine and Guirec who are bringing up the rear of the group are called by a female soldier who signs them to step aside and starts questioning them about their reason for coming to Israel. Surprised and suddenly not so good at English anymore, they both keep silent. Anne-Claire turns round and comes back to tell the soldier she is in charge of the group, 7 students and 4 adults who have come to celebrate Passover in Jerusalem. The soldier makes a gesture at the guitar Marine is carrying on her back and asks :

- "They play music?"
- "Well... They try to", Anne-Claire answers knowingly.

The lady-soldier finally smiles and lets everybody go.

Outside it’s 19 degrees and the air is fragrant with the scent of jasmine... The group gets divided into two sherouts (taxi-vans) that drive us to Jerusalem... Night has fallen so we can see nothing of the landscape we are going through. We just let ourselves be driven and enjoy a nice feeling of drifting away as if in a dream...

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We have now arrived at our destination : Jaffa Gate inside the wall of the Old Town. Too tired to be aware of where we indeed are (not less than Jerusalem !!!), we busy ourselves with finding the Youth Hostel in which Tanguy has booked rooms for our first 3 nights on the "Wall-y Land".

Small disappointment there : we won’t be able to stay together for the night, the girls are sent to a tiny cellar-room that has no window while the boys will share a dormitory with other people on the first floor... Quick showers in the tiny bathrooms before climbing up our bunk-beds. The night will be short : tomorrow at 9 a.m. we have an appointment with Michel Warschawski (founder and president of the Alternative Information Centre, whom we had met in Brussels. He’ll be taking us to the Jewish settlements around Jerusalem...

Leyla saïda ! Night, night! Sleep tight!...

Read the continuation of the trip