Our first day in Israel, in Jerusalem, we came across what looked like a tour group. The group consisted of a dozen or so teenagers. The leader was older and speaking English. We were on the pedestrian promenade of Ben Yehuda Street in the center of the New City. The group's attention was being directed towards a trash receptacle. Odd, I thought but then I overheard the lender say the word 'bomb' and I understood.
On that same day we happened to walk past the US Consulate. It was quiet and appeared to be closed. A few cars were parked in front of the building. A man moved from car to car holding a long wooden handle with a mirror at the bottom end. With this apparatus he was examining the under-carriage of each of the cars.
What was so striking about these first impressions was that we were not amongst some exotic and adventurous foreign surroudings. Occasionally during these travels we've found ourselves in places where we've remarked "this could be Europe"Alexandria for instance, or parts of Amman. But here in Jerusalem's New City, we were reminded for the first time of the streets back home in the US. With its spiffy boutiques, clean streets, palm trees, and Bonker's Bagels, the New City's central area could be Los Angeles. All around you hear American English.
At night Zion Squarethe plaza at the bottom end of the Ben Yehuda Street promenadetakes on a carnival atmosphere. Lots of young people hanging out, street performers, maybe a band and dancing. There's a constant police presence. Police cars sit with their lights flashingas if to say "Here I am, notice me."
Back at our hostel, I was sitting on the toilet when I heard a loud explosion. I did my best to finish up quickly and rushed out of the bathroom. Those sitting around the common room were nonplussed. It was the sonic boom of an aircraft breaking the sound barrier, I was told. Happens all the time.