Tai Dillard: My Time in Israel
November 3, 2004

Well this is the first entry in my journal and man will it be interesting! Letís see where to start. I arrived here in Tel Aviv, Israel on October 6. This was the first time I had ever traveled out of the country by myself. I was a little scared, anxious, and homesick all balled up in one emotion. To hide my feelings I just looked at things as though everything was normal. I left out of San Antonio to fly into New York. I had a seven hour layover in New York in which I had no one to hook up or hang out with until it was time to check in for my flight so I just sat around in JFK airport all day. I had to stay in the international flight terminal so that I wouldnít miss any vital information. I was soooooooo bored. My computer was acting up to where I could not watch any DVDs. I just about finished the book I had selected to read on the way over. I had nothing to do but just sit and think. I was so ready to go back home at this point.

Tai Dillard
At 3 p.m. I could start to check in for my flight. I think my bags and I had been checked a total of 20 times in that one day. It may be irritating to have people going through your stuff then you have to pack it back up, but I felt safe knowing that they had that much security. At 7 p.m. I boarded my flight for Israel. The name of the company was El Al airlines, never heard of it. As I was boarding I noticed there were only a lot of Israeliís and Jewish people on the flight. The flight attendants were speaking Hebrew and broken English which I had a hard time understanding. While walking to my seat some would just stare at me, especially the married couple I sat next to. I mean every time I turned around she was looking at me. I noticed there were those who wore regular clothes and those who were wearing the traditional Jewish garb/apparel. Those wearing yarmulkes and talis I found to be very really religious.

Well it was now time to prepare to take off. The captain got on the intercom talking in Hebrew. I was like great, how am I supposed to know what he is talking about. I didnít want to ask the lady next to me because I donít think she was staring out of fascination. So I just sat there. Then the captain came back on and repeated what he said in English. I was like thank you, Jesus. After he talked I acted like it was any other long flight in the U.S. I put my headphones on for the in-flight movie and became relaxed for the 10 Ĺ hour flight. Something that was odd on the flight, however, was when some of the Jews had to pray. They would get out of their seat and started chanting and praying and rocking side to side. I mean the prayer was cool, but it was just the fact that they would get up even during turbulence and pray.

The next day we finally arrived in Israel. The images I had in my mind were those that I had seen on TV of rubble and debris. But when I looked out of the window it was totally different. I saw beautiful landscape. I saw the country side as well the city. It was just beautiful. When we got inside the airport my anxiety returned. It first started when I was going through customs. I didnít understand what the attendant was telling me. She couldnít understand what I was trying to tell her. She kept asking me where my Visa was. All I had was my passport, Texas ID, birth certificate, social security card, credit card, and cash. She then walked off like there was a huge problem. I started to cry a little because I had no one there with me. I was alone for the first time in my life to fend for myself, at least until I got outside to meet my agent. Now the second anxiety attack came when I couldnít read the signs telling me where baggage claim was. But then common sense said to just follow everyone else that looked familiar on my flight. I found the baggage area and calmed down after that. My last attack came when I thought to myself, I have no idea what my agent looks like. I asked myself will he have a sign? So I walked out of the airport looking for my name. No sign. Great!! Who do I call? How do I call? Then Gil, my agent came up to me. It was the greatest feeling. I wasnít alone anymore. He introduced himself and the teamís GM, Yuran. We drove into the city to the hotel and we just talked about my schedule for the next week and the season. I was like okay this is a little bit normal now.

When we got to the hotel I met one of my roommates and teammate, Khalila Oreily-Williams from The University of Portland. She was very cool and welcoming. The next day Lanedra Brown from Seton Hall came in. We stayed at the Tal Hotel, which was located right next to the Mediterranean Sea, which I may add at sunset is the most beautiful site you will ever see. While in the hotel we had only one channel that was in English, and that was CNN. Up until the point when we moved into the apartment I was all caught up in World news. I could tell what the temperature was in Bangkok on any day. All we had was to watch CNN or watch DVDs that we had seen 50 times already.

The following week was just practice and physicals. I wasnít too much worried about the practices, but the physical had me nervous. I had no idea what they would make me do to test my conditioning. Usually I know what is planned and I can prepare myself mentally for it. But I went into the physical blind. Man, the physical was nothing. All we had to do was ride a bike for seven minutes to test our heart rate. The technician would tell us when to speed up and when slow down. I was like now this is what I am talking about. I didnít have to worry about doing 50 sprints on a court to show someone what type of shape I was in.

The next day we had a scrimmage. We won. It was against a Division 2 team. The team that I play on is Division 1. Oh yeah, the name of the team I play for is Maccabi Tel Kabir. There are a lot of players from the WNBA here. Players like Plenette Pieson, Ayana Walker, Chasity Melvin, Mandisa Stevenson, Dominique Canty, Octavia Blue, Tamarra Moore, and Crystal Robinson, just to name a few. We had three scrimmages and then we played our cup game, which we lost.

But basketball is basketball. If you seen one game you know what it is like. The games are a little different over here though. A few of the differences are: only the coach can call a time out, to sub in you hold your arms in an X and the free throw line kind of flares out near the baseline. Complaining to the refs is pointless, especially if you are an American, because the refs donít understand you and they really donít care what complaint you have. But you deal with it or have a miserable game.

Well on the social side of things, I have visited a couple of interesting places. One was Jaffa, which is called ďThe Old City.Ē Jaffa is a place where Jews and Arabs live together. It looks like an old city. This is where my preconceived vision of Israel comes to life. The buildings are all rock and rubble. Jaffa looks over Tel Aviv. The other spot I have been to is one of the beaches on the Mediterranean Sea. The water feels great and the site of the sea is just wonderful.

On a serious note, on Monday, November 1, there was a bombing in Tel Aviv. It was in one of the little open flea markets. My mom called me and told me about it. Initially I was a little frightened, but then I thought to myself the Lord will protect me from any harm so therefore I have nothing to fear. After I prayed I just went on with life. And that is just what the people of this land do here. I know in America we see on TV what reporters want us to see and that is all the destruction, but Israel is really a secure and beautiful place.

To end this entry of my journal I just want to share some of the thoughts I have had while I have been here. Driving in and out of town I start imagining what it was like here when Jesus graced the land. I can look at a little hill or mountain and say to myself Jesus probably walked that trail many days. There is definitely a spiritual presence here. The way some of the inhabitants look I say, you know that is probably how Jesus or one of the Apostles looked. Or that is how Mary looked. It is somewhat amazing and heartwarming to feel this way.

Well I guess I will have more to talk about in a week or so. Hope you enjoy this entry.