On Thursday I crossed the border into Israel, went SCUBA diving in the red sea, and then took the bus to Jerusalem.
I had been warned that I would get a lot of hassle at the Israeli border because I had been to Iran, and indeed I did. It took about an hour and a half of questioning and waiting, but I eventually got through. I was accompanied by a couple of Etonians who had been to Syria and were having similar problems.
The border leads to the city of Eliat, which happens to have a coral reef with of the best SCUBA diving in the world. I got out of Israeli security at 12:30, booked a bus ticket to Jerusalem, and then headed straight to the nearest travel agency to see if I could book a reef dive *now* with the intention of getting a good dive in before my bus left at 5pm.
The dive was spectacular. It was by far the best dive I've ever done. On the coral reef there is so much going on, so many fish, and so much variety that it is hard to take it all in and it felt quite overwhelming. I saw a sting ray, a flathead carpet fish, a big clam (opening and shutting) and loads of big fish I don't know the names for. The coral itself was also quite amazing. I wish I could have taken photos.
When I've done dives in California I've found I had to work quite hard to control my depth. Since the water is cold you have to wear a really thick wetsuit. This wetsuit compresses as you go down, losing buoyancy and making you go down faster, and the opposite problem happens going up. Since the water in the red sea is warm, you can wear a really thin wetsuit. The result is that the positive feedback effect went away almost entirely and depth control felt effortless.
For those of you who have never tried SCUBA diving - do it now. The sensation of weightlessness alone is remarkable - it feels just like when you can fly in a dream - strangely familiar. The dive was also surprisingly good value. I got a one-tank 45 minute shore dive on the reef with all equipment included and a personal guide for around $50.