Complex Landing in Israel

What can be said about this mystical place that hasn’t been said before? As many of you may know, Kim, our daughter Skye and I lived in Haifa for three years volunteering at the Baha’i World Centre from 1995 to 1998, so in many ways, we were coming home.

Landing in Haifa airport has been a 22-year-old dream of mine and today we did it with a couple of hiccups.  Starting with transferring from Greek airspace to Cyprus airspace. It seemed to reflect the quasi-diplomatic détente between the two countries as one controller from Greece failed to hand us off and the other controller in Cyprus reprimanded us for not calling them sooner. We simply gave our apologies without pointing out the where the fault really should fall. Then into Israeli airspace as we came out of 37,000 feet.

The procedure here is, as you may have suspected, is a bit more involved. You first have to get permission to come into the airspace at least 5 days prior. Then you need a local resident to verify (by a phone call) with the Israeli authorities that you are a good person. Then you get a code and a password that you will repeat on-air in real time before you are allowed to enter the Israeli airspace. Our password was MONKEY and after verifying the code and after repeating the password, we seamlessly entered into Israel for our approach to Haifa airport.

Being a short field, (3,700 feet) with landings only allowed in visual conditions, we needed to be on our game and it was no problem with one exception. The prevailing wind is from the North which puts you on an approach over two cooling towers from a power generation plant that has been closed down for years. If you line up on the correct glide path it puts you only a couple hundred feet above the towers. Gulp. Not a problem in visual conditions but it explains why there are no instrument approaches and why there will never be jet commercial traffic in Haifa until the runway is lengthened and/or the towers are removed.

Now for Haifa. The never-ending contrast and conflict resounds in so many ways. The first taste for us was when the tower told us to park in a specific space and the ground security told us a different place resulting in Travis getting out of the plane to have a chat with the ground handlers since we ran out of hand gestures from the cockpit. Problem solved without shutting down the engines and restarting as we tell the tower that the space they were putting us in was the easiest place for the ground handlers to refuel other planes. Then onto the rental car saga. No rental cars at the airport, which we knew, and getting a cab was easy to the rental car agency only to find out that since we were leaving in two days on a Saturday, it was impossible to return the car. Hummm, we will have to sort that out later. It would have been good to know when we made the reservation.

From the airport, we checked in and oddly, our biggest priority was getting laundry done in one day without paying $15 per shirt. Much more to this story, but suffice it to say that getting our shirts back on the day before Shabbat was awkward since we opted for a laundry nearby, but not in the hotel. $8 instead of $80. We’ll see.

Personally, we have come here in the past for renewal at the sacred sites of our religion. This was no exception. Time not spent with friends was devoted to prayer and meditation for thanksgiving for all of our bounties as well as other prayers focused on our tests and difficulties.

Uri Buri Restaurant in Akko just North of Haifa is our go-to place for the very best food in Israel and this time it didn’t disappoint. I’ll just tell you wasabi sorbet and leave the rest to you to discover.

Met friends for dinner each night and I recommend Fattoush on Ben-Gurion in Haifa which is amazing Lebanese food and an great view up Mt. Carmel to the Baha’i Gardens at night.

Back to the airport after a short two days and after Travis washed the dirt from Istanbul off the plane, and we were greeted by several local pilots as we departed. One was a medical doctor, Avinoam, with a Cherokee he uses for weekend trips to Cyprus and the other was an Aussie skydiving pilot, Alon, in a Cessna Caravan. Hello guys.

Off to Dubai with only a few technicalities. One being is that you can’t fly there directly due to the politics, so we must land in Amman, Jordan, 81 miles away, refuel and go. We don’t get our passports stamped and only refuel, so I have no clue why that rule is there?!