Wandering in the sun and warmth of Eilat, Israel
“I was in Eilat in 1965 and there was nothing there. There was no running water, it was 100 degrees, and I was like, ‘Man, they are going to a have a hard time making this a tourist attraction,'” spoke Chaya’s father on a Skype conversation that was impossible for me not to eavesdrop upon, as my computer speakers were blasting the words of the elder Goldman all over the south side of Israel.”But I guess they succeeded,” he concluded as his daughter spoke of the fancy boardwalks, sky high hotels, and beach people that are spread all over the Red Sea coastline of Eilat.
I looked out the window of our 30 something dollar a night “cheap” hotel at the pearly clean intentional resort city of Eilat. I looked at the nice straight roads, the flashing beacons of the shopping mall, the airport that has its runway built smoothly in the center of the city, and the big pyramid that rose above everything which was really nothing other than an IMAX movie theater.
The clean and orderly border crossing was a good indication of what was to come in Israel. Everything is very straight here.
The sun was shining and the weather was warm when we entered the country. We found a taxi man waiting as we came out of immigration still in shock that we crossed into Israel so smoothly with passports strewn with Arab stamps. The cab driver’s name was Isaac, and he spoke good English. His taxi was very posh and new. He explained to us that all of the taxis in Israel ran on meters so the drivers could not rip off travelers.
He then ripped us off.
It is true that he turned on the meter, but he added 18 sheckles — $4.5 — onto the fare by pressing the extra fee button that sits at the edge of the meter’s screen. This is the great contradiction of taxi meters: if the driver can add as much as he wants onto the fare, then what is the point of having a meter?
Being cheated transparently is the same as being deceived — you get ripped off either way.
But Isaac the taxi driver was forthright in over charging us, as he explained why he added 18 sheckles on to the fare: it was because we had luggage — two rucksacks. We did not know then that the standard “extra fee” for this is 5 sheckles total. Oh well, when you cross into any country for the first time, you are fair game.
There is nothing for the traveler to do in such a situation than shrugged their shoulders and take it. When “extra fees” become standard they are not extra anymore. When the sun is shinning, the weather warm, and you are riding into a new country money is sometimes trumped by the enjoyment of the Open Road.
“It is a beautiful day,” I spoke to Isaac as we rode along the coast and into Eilat.
“Today, no!” he exclaimed. “Today is not beautiful! It is bad weather today.”
I was taken aback, and my confused look warranted an explanation.
“Today, there is too much wind.”
I have been around the world a little, and I have only once before heard of wind as being a main determinant for good weather or bad. This was in the Gobi Desert, where the wind was prone to blowing up all of the sand into wild dust storms, and this was exactly what Isaac was getting at. But the dust that opaqued Aqaba was mearly a thin filter; I moved around my tongue in my mouth and gritted my teeth — no sand could be detected. I was getting the impression that the perception of sand blasting wind was very different here on the southern tip of the Negev than in the heart of the Gobi.
“Look! look over there,” Isaac the taxi driver roared as he pointed across the sea to the country we had just excited — I have previously learned of the Israeli propensity fo getting overly excited and loud in conversations from prior travels and was not scared off by the fact that the driver was virtually screaming at me — “You cannot even see Aqaba today! Too much wind blows up the sand.”
Very well, but I would surely take a 10 mph light breeze and a shinning sun to rain, cold, and snow. After traveling through Eastern Europe and the Balkans in winter, I must say that I was happy to be in a place where the quality of the weather was determined by gentle breezes.
Chaya and I went on to two gentle days of walking in the sun, being warm, dry, and without any wind born sand or grit in our mouths on the southern slope of the Negev desert, sandwiched between the Arab states of Jordan and Egypt.
Map of Israel — or Occupied Palestine as it is know in Arab countries.
Though modern built-for-tourists Eilat may have been created in the Israeli and UN claim of access to the Red Sea, it is not a new settlement, nor was the 1949 acquisition the first time that Jewish people inhabited this area en mass. The area where Eilat is today was where the 9th – 13th stations of Exodus occurred, and seems to have been a location that has always been burning in the thorough of political conflict for a very, very long time.
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Wandering in the sun and warmth of Eilat, Israel