First experiences in Tel Aviv

(17th August 2003)

Dear friends,

as some of you know already, I'm in Israel right now on a six week IAESTE traineeship. I came to Israel four days ago and I'd like to share some of my impressions and experiences with you. As there are many people on my mailinglist who don't speak German, I will write in English. Please tell me if you need a German translation or don't want to get this email at all. In this case, I will exclude you from further emails.

When I came to the airport Berlin-Schönefeld, I had to go to a separate terminal that was heavily guarded by the German Frontier Police "Bundesgrenzschutz". I had to show my ticket and passport even before being allowed to enter the terminal of El Al, the Israeli airline. Once inside, two Israeli security officers were asking all kind of questions about the reasons of my travel and my stay in Israel. The next step was a very thorough investigation of my luggage where they even checked my notebook for traces of explosives. Finally I made it to the check-in and the waiting hall. When the plane had landed on the runway, it was escorted by police to the terminal and guarded by four police men with heavy weapons, one at each corner. Every person of the ground personel that was involved in unloading and loading the luggage was checked by the El Al security personel.

Boarding and the flight were very smooth; we flew over Czechia, Hungary and Bulgary, passed the Dardanels and crossed Turkey before arriving from the sea to Tel Aviv "Ben Gurion" airport. The check by immigration officials took quite long before I could grab my backpack and head for the exit where an Israeli friend was waiting for me. He had been in Rostock as IAESTE trainee last year and had offered to pick me up and bring me to the student dormitory where I'm staying.

The hostel is close the the university campus where I'm working and consists of double rooms. One of them I'm sharing with another German trainee. Unfortunately, there is no air-conditioning in the room. This has to be stressed as all Israeli houses, shops, cars, busses and public buildings are cooled down. The reason for this is the very warm and humid climate in Tel Aviv. Situated on the coast close to the Mediterranean, the temperatures in Tel Aviv are right now between 27 and 35 degrees centigrade and humidity is somewhere around 85 percent (estimated). Being not used to this, it is very exhausting and often it seems that it is only bearable when sitting in the shadow and drinking cold water. I haven't adjusted to this yet but hope to get used to it at least partially during my stay.

My work is in the "Engineering department" of the Tel Aviv university in the group of Prof. Gover, department for "Physical Eletronics". I have been working for only two days up to now so I just managed to get an introduction to the group and to my project. Non-physicists my skip the next paragraph :-)

The group of Prof. Gover is operating a so-called "Free-Electron Laser (FEL)" which is a high-power tunable light/microwave source using an accelerated electron beam that is emitting radiation when passing through a "wiggler" device where the electrons are forced to move along curved magnetic field lines. The task I have been assigned is to help to improve a coupling-mirror for microwave radiation coming from the wiggler and entering a waveguide. As I haven't done much on this field before, I will have to start reading and remembering the topics from my optics lectures which are some years back to be able to fulfill my project. Hopefully this will give me new insights that I can use for our own lidar instrument.

Friday and saturday are the Jewish weekend so I was not at the university. Instead, I visited the center of Tel Aviv and met all the other IAESTE trainees who are in Israel at the moment and came to Tel Aviv this weekend. We visited the "Ha-Shouk-Karmel" market where you can find nearly everything, "Sheinkin Street" with many small shops and restaurants, the old city of Jaffa south of Tel Aviv and of course the nice beach and warm water of the Mediterranean Sea.

Today I spent the morning in the "Eretz Israel" museum not far from my dormitory which has exhibitions about Jewish traditions and culture, coins, pottery, copper mining and bronze casting, glass production, coinage and comprises the archaeological site of the former Philistine city of "Tel Quasile" from about 3500 years ago.

In the afternoon, my Israeli friends called my and offered me an excursion to the former Arab village "Sataf" west of Jerusalem. On the way, we passed the village of Abu Ghosh and ate "Hummus", an Israeli specialty made of a special plant, falafel made from the same plant, grilled lamb and for desert some baklava. After the good meal, we continued to "Sataf" and took a walk down the slope of the valley through olive trees and figue trees to a fountain with a water basin where the local youth was playing in the water. Although being deserted for a long time, around 10 years ago the nicely arranged walls, stairs and terasses where reconstructed and re-planted in the way they were used by the villagers for growing vegetables and fruits. Up there in the mountains, the climate was much more comfortable being a little less warm and most of all much drier air.

I will write a little more about the general impressions of life in Israel in my next email. For now, if you are interested in viewing some pictures from Israel, you can go to my homepage: http://armins.cjb.net/ and click on "Pictures" and then "Israel Summer 2003". Enjoy !

Best regards to whereever you are at the moment and take care of you !

Yours,
Armin