Thursday, July 6, 2017

Around the World in Thirty-Two Days

I'm a terrible traveler. Until I discovered a travel medication that worked for me, I would regularly pass out on airplanes and throw up on boats. El-Al had me sign waivers of liability so many times, I feared they would put me on a no-fly list. It also takes me anywhere up to a month to recover from jet-lag, especially traveling east. With that in mind, you'll understand that I have somewhat mixed feelings about a spectacular itinerary that I have for this summer.

My route map according to Google. Though I doubt
that El-Al flies over Iran.
In two weeks, I am going around the world! Not only that, but I'm going further south than I've ever been and further north than I've ever been. This journey includes travel by airplane, ship, boat, and three other exciting forms of transport that I will reveal in due course (and it's not elephant or camel or giant tortoise, which I have done previously but will not be doing on this trip). I'll be setting out east to Bangkok, then south to Perth, then east to Melbourne, then north-east to Los Angeles, then north to Seattle, then north-west to Alaska and Victoria (British Columbia), and then back to Seattle, LA and home to Israel. The total distance is nearly forty thousand miles!

It must be said that modern transport is truly astonishing. For most of human history, making such a journey required an exceedingly dangerous ocean voyage. In 1870, when the technological breakthroughs of steamships, railroads and the Suez Canal enabled relatively easy circumnavigation of the globe, it was still an exciting challenge to think of doing it in as little as eighty days, as immortalized in Jules Verne's acclaimed novel. Even when airplanes were invented, the first commercial flights to Australia took up to twelve days, and required several changes of aircraft and up to forty-two refueling stops. Today, I can travel to Australia in just two Dramamines!

A behind-the-scenes kangaroo encounter
at Jungle Island in Florida
There are multiple purposes for this trip. It's a combination of lectures, shooting video for museum exhibits and a documentary, acquiring museum exhibits, fundraising, and part of it is a family vacation. Since one of the purposes is filming about Biblical zoology, and Biblical zoology is the animals that live in precisely the place where I'm not going to be, one might wonder how exactly the scenes are going to be relevant. Don't worry, that question will be answered, and I hope to be posting clips and photos from some truly extraordinary animal encounters. (Not kangaroos - you can see those at any good zoo!)

The shiurim that I am giving in Alaska are not only about wildlife, but also about other Jewish concepts relating to Alaska (for which I will be admittedly have to resort to being a little creative). But in addition, the entire concept of a country down under the world, and flying around the world, raises some interesting questions about Jewish intellectual history, which I plan exploring in some blog-posts over the next few weeks. Don't forget that you can subscribe to this blog via e-mail, using the form on the right of the web page. (Remember that you have to confirm the subscription; if you don't get an email requesting confirmation, check your spam folder.)

If you live in Perth, Melbourne or LA and you'd like to host a fundraising event for The Biblical Museum of Natural History, please be in touch! (The same invitation is open to readers in Bangkok and Alaska, but I suspect that I don't have much of an audience there.) I will also be returning to the US - to New York - in October, and to Toronto in December, so please be in touch if you would like to arrange a speaking or fundraising engagement then. Meanwhile, we have truly excellent guides at The Biblical Museum of Natural History, so if you're in Israel, come visit!


  1. Yet, when you arrive back in Israel in 32 days you will have experienced 33 days!

  2. Alaska has some obvious issues regarding dates and times: How do you end Shabat when it doesn't get dark enough to see three stars for an entire month. Trondheim, Norway has the same problem and the two places have different answers to the problem.

    Alaska also has the international date line issue. Not only is there a shilah as to where the date line should be, but the secular international date line actually changed in 1867. 3:29pm Saturday, October 7 (Julian Calendar) was followed by 3:30pm Friday, October 19 (Gregorian Calendar) as that was the exact time that the annexation of Alaska took effect -- and the Hebrew date was 19 Tishrei, so not just Shabbat but Yom Tov was affected! A few years ago I asked the Chabad rabbi in Anchorage what Jews did then; he said he suspected that there may not have been any Jews in Alaska back then who cared. :(

  3. Your measurement of travel times in Dramamines is clever. I also like how you lumped Victoria, BC and Anchorage, AK together as destinations north-west of Seattle (Victoria is only about 100 km from Seattle, roughly the same as Tel-Aviv and Haifa).

    Best wishes for all your travels!

  4. Videos of your Alaska presentations?

  5. When and where will you be in Seattle?

  6. Goodness! You've truly added to your abilities and it can be found in this article. Staggering, you have really updated yourself as a maker. Likewise, I expect that you will continue giving us such articles.


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