Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Israeli Rollercoaster...

Well I'm back again. It was a whirlwind trip in more ways than one and I'm mentally exhausted from it. Normally I have an easy time articulating my experiences in travel, but this one's tough. My last trip to Israel was just a cursory looksee really, I enjoyed it but didn't get a lot out of it. That definitely changed this time around. We had an excellent local private guide for the trip which really made a world of difference. It's one thing to see a place but quite another to get the backstory of every single thing you're looking at. The history of the place is just amazing. So much hope, and life, and death and destruction all packed into such a tiny space. In fact I can't even describe how tiny it really is. From the edge of the West Bank, at Israel's narrowest point, you can actually see the beach in Tel Aviv, it's just 25 km. You realize when you're there that history is a very real and present thing, being made moment to moment, which is a feeling you just can't get in good old safe and boring Canada.

The bottom line is that I came away with a great deal of respect for the Israeli people, much more than I ever had before. How they manage to live in a state of constant conflict and yet still build an advanced and extremely liberal nation and maintain some sense of normalcy to every day life just amazes me beyond belief. I really hope one day that true and lasting peace can be achieved there. If the beautiful city of Haifa, a place where Jews and Arabs co-exist peacefully, is any indication then it's certainly possible. It definitely gave me some hope. Fingers crossed.

The side effect of the constant threat they face though is that at a very subliminal level they really strive to make the most of each day. Few work harder than the Israelis but nobody parties harder. We always say to ourselves to live each day like it's our last, but the reality here in North America is that it doesn't work, we will likely live to see tomorrow just fine. In Israel though it's different, there's a real and constant danger involved in living there, one that only fluctuates in intensity but never goes away, and it breeds a zest for life in the people that is just utterly infectious. I wish I could explain it better. It's one emotional and inspiring ride that's for sure haha.

Some of the highlights of the trip were seeing Jerusalem of course (it still has that special magical air about it), seeing Masada, where the Jews made their last stand against the Romans and committed mass suicide instead of accepting their inevitable defeat and slavery, and visiting the Israeli Air Force museum, an enormous well of contemporary history. It's one thing to see a Mirage III in a French museum, and quite another to see an Israeli one with thirteen Syrian and Egyptian Mig kills painted on its nose from the Six Day war. Impressive as hell. I also saw one of the IAI Lavi prototypes from the mid 80's and suddenly realized that the Eurofighter is just a shameless copy haha. Put pictures of the two side by side, you'll see what I mean.

On the flipside of the trip, we went through New York city on the way to and from Israel, and in both cases I was given an unjustified and protracted grilling by the gestapo that the US Customs system has become, including bag searches and being detained for upwards of an hour with no explanation. And that's me, an upstanding Canadian citizen who has never committed a crime of any sort. I feel truly sad for anyone else trying to visit the country. The unfortunate result though is that this trip must represent my final flight into a US city. I'm not putting up with that anymore. In the future I will drive to the US when I need to go there, though I'm not really sure how long that will last either. It's sad really. I lived in the US for many years and used to really look forward to going south. No more. Thankfully one can fly to just about anywhere in the world from Toronto, though Pearson International airport may be that city's only really useful feature haha.

Anyway, here's a few piccies from the journey. Enjoy.



doug said...

Wow,that sounded great and those pictures are ├╝ber awesome.
And unlucky about New York, I hope they used lubricant......

Lotus / Ramasurinen said...

Thanks Doug. And I know you're jesting but it's very serious, no joke. Things have really gone downhill in the 'freedom' department. The government espouses it with one hand while silently killing it with the other. Ugh.

Doug said...

Geese, we're you fully on interrogated?

Lotus / Ramasurinen said...

Pretty much yup, and I refuse to be treated that way anymore, so that's that hehe.

Doug said...

Haha, fair play to you.

Vlad said...

Sorry to hear about your New York experience.

If worse came to worse, they could have deported you back to Israel, just for being a *citizen* of Canada...the feat's been accomplished before.....

Some cool philosophy you've included there, you don't hear similar stories on the news everyday!

xxilim said...

Ur a freaking artist man!

Lotus / Ramasurinen said...

Thanks guys. :)

tutmeister said...

Awesome photos, sound amazing.

I have the same trouble with the USA.

I spent 10 years in the British Army, a lot of time was spent fighting for the war on terror, so you'd think I might get it a bit easier when I approach Chicago or Dallas, my only ways to get to Tulsa, where my wife lives.

But as I am going through the visa process to become a citizen, I obviously am a nasty person wanting to hurt America in some way. It's hard enough spending over a year apart from your life partner, it's another thing to be treated like dirt when you come to visit her. Lets hope it improves in the next 5 years.

Anyway, at least home and can get back to the L-39 work, I can not wait!

Lotus / Ramasurinen said...

Hey Tut, thanks! Wow, your visa process sounds like a headache. I almost did that myself, used to be on an H1-B when I worked in the US, but when the option for going for a greencard came up I ended up passing and spending a year traveling around the world instead. I'm sorry to hear that they treat even you like a criminal, it's just sad.

At least they can point to my scruffy long haired hippy look and say "that thar's a troublemaker!" but a British soldier? Ridiculous.

As for the L-39, I can't wait either. Only about 120 fifteen plus hour days to go haha. Oy!

All I can say at this point is be thankful there are addons at all, I don't know how anybody has the patience for this stuff. I'm certainly having to learn some! :)

Tutmeister said...

Oh I completely understand. I've dabbled a bit myself, as I dabble a bit in 3D design to get good looking 2D images for stuff, but haven't the patience, or the time for it to be honest.

The visa situation is a pain in the butt for anyone going through it. But they do make you feel as if you should be privileged to wait a year to be processed in.

The reality is, I was happy flying AH-64D until my wife asked me to leave the Army and come home with her, which I agreed to. I wouldn't hesitate to do it again though, I'm just bitter right now as the USCIS is an awful process.

As a rough timeline: We submitted an I-130, which is permission for me to apply for a visa, in April 08 and we're not expecting to hear from them until Christmas. Then I can go ahead and file for a visa, which may take 4 more months to come through, by which stage I'll have been away for over a year...it also sucks as you can't get a decent job (yeah, about a year mate, maybe a little less...) and you untie yourself from Britain in preparation of your departure, but if you don't have anything to return to Britain for, they'll gladly return you out of fear that you'll remain in the USA illegally LMAO.

Anyway, nuff whining, I'll let you get on with life haha.

Bionicfellow said...

Looks like it was a fun trip. My whole family are fans of your animation work. I'm currently in the Canadian Air Force and have been making flight safety animations for a couple of years. I've got a few questions about camera control and other issues when you are able.