Monday, January 30, 2012


Last week, I was in a car, being driven south along the Israeli coast, from the Lebanese border in the direction of Acre. We were of course driving south, but my mind kept telling me we were driving north.

The reason for this is because the coast I have done the most driving on is the east coast of Australia, and when you are driving with that coast on your right, you are going north.

However, there is more to it than that. The water looked similar to what you find off Australia. I am used to the Mediterranean having tiny little waves, if any, but there are some quite decent waves hitting the Levant in winter. There appears to be a bit of an Israeli surf culture, to. (Wherever there is a surf culture, there will be Australians around, too. One of the charms of the slightly storied but twee French resort of Biarritz is to turn a corner and find an Australian surf shop / cafe that could just about be in my home town of Wollongong). There are rock platforms in the water of the Levant, too, some of which have rock swimming pools cut out of them in a way that is also common in Australia. And there are eucalyptus trees - native to Australia - on the shore. (Oddly enough, possibly the first time I ever heard of the state of Israel as a child was when I was told that native Australian eucalyptus trees had been introduced to the relatively barren land of Israel, where they had grown well in a similarly harsh climate to that of Australia).

So it felt like the Australian east coast. However, that still wasn't it. I have driven along other coasts in the past without the unutterable sense that I was driving in the opposite direction from the one I was. After a moment, though, I figured it out. The issue was the sun, which was over the sea in a south-westerly direction from me. In the northern hemisphere, the sun is in the south, and in the southern hemisphere the sun is in the north. So the sun in the afternoon driving south in Israel was at a very similar angle to the sun in the morning driving north in Australia. And a check just now tells me that Sydney is at a latitude of 34 degrees south, whereas Haifa is at 33 degrees north. So exactly the same angle. Interesting.


Alisa said...

The latitude point is interesting too - I didn't realize that. It must mean that the climate is very similar indeed.

Michael said...

Yes. I didn't realise it myself until I was actually writing the post, and thought "I wonder" and looked it up. It was strange: I just got an overwhelming sense of being somewhere familiar when I really, really wasn't.

The temperature in Israel last week was pretty similar to what you might get in Sydney in July. Sydney probably gets less rain at that time of year, though.

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