I tried writing an update yesterday as soon as we arrived here at Kfar Harayok, but the computer apparently ate it. So now you get the updated version, added for last night's festivities!
The travel itself was long, but not too bad. It was about 7.5 hours from New York's JFK airport to Zurich, and then 3.5 hours from Zurich into Tel Aviv. Between the flights (especially with an hour+ delay leaving JFK due to air traffic), airplane seats, and time change, I thought I'd be in for a tough trip, but I was pleasantly surprised. The IBL had booked us on Swiss Air rather than El Al (apparently the Israeli airline wasn't willing to negotiate the prices down at all so they lost out on over 100 tickets!), and the seats were actually comfortable and spacious. In addition, Swiss Air has built-in entertainment handsets, which when combined with the exit row/bulkhead seating, allowed me to spend most of my time either sleeping or playing games like minigolf and Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? For the record, I made it to the million dollar question once, and I would have beaten the game a few times if it weren't the British version, with thoroughly random questions I had no way of knowing. I actually got the 100 pound question wrong a couple of times - very unlike me, as I love trivia games.
I was traveling from NY with a group of maybe 20 IBLers, many of whom I had met earlier at our local IBL practices or from my time playing ball in the NYC area, but there were about half I did not know and we spent some of our down time on the flight or between them meeting each other. It was pretty easy to see who the IBL players were; most ballplayers tend to stand out in a crowd. Besides, most of us were wearing some sort of baseball paraphernalia, and a few of us signed autographs when asked by curious passengers with what group we were traveling.
So we arrived in Tel Aviv - and the airport is beautiful!!! I'm used to massive stone structures designed for unaesthetic mass people-moving in LaGuardia and JFK - but the Ben Gurion airport is beautiful and clean, with a waterfall falling into a pool in the center of a brightly-lit courtyard, and high-end shops and boutiques all around. We passed through customs mostly uneventfully (I say 'mostly' because one of us was pulled aside for questioning and had to meet up with us later) and met up with some of the IBL personnel who loaded us onto buses and brought us to Kfar Hayarok.
Kfar Hayarok is basically a cross between a boarding school and a kibbutz, maybe 10 minutes away from Tel Aviv proper. I've been here for about 24 hours already, met some fun people, and realized I’m going to have to get a refrigerator. The rooms here are very sparsely furnished, with 3 or 4 players to a room and all with 'twin-sized' beds, which are the smallest commercially-available size. Being 6'6", my legs sort of hang off the edge of the bed unless I curl up in a ball to sleep - such is life! I wasn't expecting the Ritz, and it's certainly worth it to be here and part of this IBL experience.
The weather has been gorgeous and looks like it will continue to be - might as well enjoy the weather and local sights before we need to turn our attention to more pressing matters - like watching Netanya win the IBL championship. :)