Just before Christmas 2006, I received an email from my very good friend Rick Stone, also known as RoboWizard. "How would you like to go to Israel?" Intrigued I asked what was behind this request. Rick had been asked by Paula Stern of WritePoint to go out there and give a talk to a conference she was organising in January 2007. Paula had indicated that she was still looking for another presenter so when Rick suggested my name, I then got an email from Paula.
I think my reaction was fairly typical and I know that Rick's wife shared the same concerns as mine. Interesting country but they do seem to have a problem with their neighbours and that is exactly how I put it to Paula. She explained the situation honestly and described how security works there, emphasizing that she would be with us pretty much all of the time. The deal was that in return for talking, we would have a week in Israel and be taken around every day except the day of the conference. Some deals you can turn down but that was not one. It also had the bonus that I would get to meet Rick after conducting an email relationship for some years.
Suffice it to say that I did feel safe at all times, indeed safer than I have felt at times in the UK! The security is not obtrusive unless there is an alert but you are quietly aware of the precautions being taken. You don't get into a restaurant or shopping mall without a security check.
The whole experience was quite unique. Since being a small boy, the idea of floating on the Dead Sea had been a dream, I got to do that. The most moving thing though was being in the room where The Last Supper was held. Regardless of religious beliefs, it was a significant event in history and being in that room is quite something.
Paula was a fantastic host. With a conference to organise, she nevertheless took Rick and I to different places every day. Her husband, Lazer, and her friend and colleague Avigail, made the conference arrangements to make this possible. Rick and I will always be grateful to the three of them. On the Sabbath, Paula would not have been able to drive in from her home outside Jerusalem. Instead Paula's family joined us at the hotel so that we could walk around Jerusalem and we joined in their Sabbath traditions.
In all, it was a fantastic experience that I will always remember and treasure.
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