Israel has been quite an experience so far. I feel like I’ve been here for a week. I arrived early Thursday morning at the airport in Tel Aviv. Thankfully, shortly thereafter my bag appeared on the luggage carousel. Having grown up in Africa that’s always a welcome sight for me and a small victory in itself.
From there I caught a train to Herzliya, which took about 45 minutes with all the stops and the changing of trains. From what I saw along the trip I must admit I was a little nervous and apprehensive. Mile after mile of run down blocks of flats, really rough neighborhoods and a diverse, interesting array of characters on and around the train. Another thing that really struck me and made a huge impression was the number of “kids” on the train and sitting at the station in their military fatigues. I’ve heard a lot of stories about the Israeli Army and their policy of conscription. I believe it’s a compulsory 2 years for woman and 3 years for men, but I was shocked at the sheer volume. I saw hundreds of “men” and “women,” many of whom were no more than 18 years old. What was even more frightening was that an M16 rifle seems like a standard accessory for many of these youngsters. I would say that was the most eye opening experience for me so far. It definitely gave me some perspective and a deep sense of gratitude for the situation I am in right now.
From the train station I caught a taxi to the courts. Again, I was somewhat surprised at the landscape for what appeared to be a relatively low standard of living. All of a sudden, a blink or two later, there it was, the Mediterranean Ocean, and mansions all around me. It seems that, similar to South Africa, the physical gap between rich and poor in Israel is in many cases just a couple of blocks.
Now let me get to the tennis. I’ve had three great practices so far, all with my buddy from South Africa, Dean O’Brien. The conditions are pretty hot, but not too bad. The courts are slick and a little sandy and slippery, but the balls are very slow and puffy. The tournament ball is a Tretorn which seems to puff up to the size of a beach ball after one game, making conditions fairly unique. I’ve been fighting off the jetlag, which after at least 30 hours of total traveling hit me quite hard yesterday. I’m catching up though and managing to figure out my new sleep patterns, so I should be getting pretty close to normal soon.
I suppose the biggest news, the news I’m going to end on, is the fact that I got accepted into the qualifying draw. I got a Bye in the first round, and I play an Israeli player by the name of Nitay Schalum tomorrow morning. I’m raring to go and very excited to compete in what will, shockingly enough, be my first ever Futures singles match. I’ll let you all know how it goes.
Thanks for reading!