I'm not a tour bus kind of gal, probably in rebellion against my parents (though I am probably too old to be rebelling by now). But my husband and I joined up with a "bar mitzvah tour" for three days of this Israel trip: There are 18 folks, including 7 kids, 4 of whom made the transition from boyz to men at Masada this morning. After an evening in which we floated in the Dead Sea at night (odd and utterly different) we were up at 5 and on the bus in the near dark to the ancient fort, originally the site of Herod's summer palace. I knew the dramatic story of how 300 Israeli's held out against a Roman force for 3 years, surviving with stores of food and water from the palace, and how, except for 2 or 3, all 300 committed suicide rather than becoming slaves to the Roman invaders. But it was another thing to sit in the remains of what the rebels used as a synagogue, watching the sun rise, listening to the young rabbi and watching the three bar mitzvot to be wriggling in nervousness and excitement. It was brief and simple, over before the sun became scorching, but felt right in its simplicity.
Then, on to the bus. Despite my initially skepticism (read: snobbery vis a vis the bus tour thing), it's very soothing sitting in a big air conditioned bus, listening to a guide tell you every little thing about the country (or tuning him out and snoozing). We went for a camel ride, had tea and baklavah in a Bedouin tent and are now on our way to Eilat, the Israeli equivalent of South Beach. It's nice to be with family, to not wait on lines to get into sites, to have someone do my thinking for me. People quickly get into patterns on a tour bus. My brother-in-law naps. My hubby asks the guide a lot of questions. The kids go straight to the back of the bus to, as my nephew said, "day dream, read, and play on my iTouch." I'm a napper myself, though I'm hoping the guide's wise words penetrate my sleeping brain. Until this point, I've been a bit stressed, trying to figure out how to see all there is to see in Israel. What I'm realizing is that I will see what I will see--that touring is not the same as vacationing, and that rather than trying to cram everything in, when we are sprung from the tour and back in the apartment in Tel Aviv, I may want to spend a few days just soaking up the charms of our funky neighborhood, eating great food, lounging on the beach, sampling Israeli wine (which is quite good!) and reading. In other words, I'm trying not to be so Type A, to put away the guidebook and chill.