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Arriving in Tel Aviv

Three Month Visa

When I first got to Israel, I arrived at Ben Gurion, Tel Aviv's airport. It was the 7th of December 1993, and I had left a cold winter Holland, in search for a better temperature. I didn't feel the warmth as long as I was inside the arrivals terminal, as the air conditioning was doing its job quite well. But when I got outside, it felt like I was wrapped in a blanket — a pre-heated one.

The first thing that struck me, was the presence of palm trees. Coming from Western Europe and never having travelled further than the west side of Central Europe, I always pictured palm trees to grow on white beaches. I never imagined them between concrete buildings and asphalt roads, but here they were; right outside the terminal, between the bus station and the taxi stand.

I had the address of a YHA affiliated hostel, and was on my way to the buses to find out which one to take, when a guy stopped me, asking in a very British voice if I had already booked a place to stay. Apparently, I could step in the waiting van, which would take me to a good and cheap hostel, the ride being free of charge. Although he sounded thrustworthy, I decided against jumping in a stranger's car, so I declined. But he then gave me the address of the hostel on a flyer and told me which bus to take, in case I changed my mind. The price of the hostel was less than half the price of the YHA one, so I thought I'd give it a try.

I had asked the busdriver to warn me when we'd get to Bograshov Street, but when he did and I got off the bus in the dark, I had no idea where I was. Asking for Bograshov Street got me to the hostel quickly however, and I got booked into a room of four.

“Hotel Josef” seemed a nice and friendly hostel, for a very good price. When I woke up the next day and explored the area, now by daylight, I discovered how lucky I was. Being right around the corner from the main street, a short distance from the famous Tel Aviv busstation annex shopping center (six floors!), and only 2 minutes walk from the beach, I found the Josef Hostel a winning ticket in the lottery.

At the main street I found what I came to Tel Aviv for: a kibbutz office. I had no idea what to expect of a kibbutz, other than it being a place where one could live and work without having to pay for food and housing. The girl in the office didn't have any kibbutz places available at that time, but offered work on a moshav instead. The biggest difference between a kibbutz and a moshav from a volunteer's point of view, is the money earned. On a kibbutz one only receives a small amount of pocket money, while on a moshav the money can be viewed as a salary.

I decided to go for it, and was registered to go to Ein Yahav, a large moshav near the Jordanian border, in the middle of the Negev desert. When I told the girl that I wanted to start next week only, cause I wanted to explore Jerusalem first, she said that that meant she couldn't book a transport ticket for me, and I'd have to find my own way from Jerusalem instead. She seemed to think I was mad when I said that it wouldn't be a problem. No idea why — maybe she found it weird that I wanted to spend money in Jerusalem while I could be earning money in Ein Yahav.