This afternoon I fly to Israel for a five day visit. It's being arranged by Conservative Friends of Israel (www.cfoi.co.uk) who every year take several groups of MPs, candidates and journalists there to learn more about the country's culture, politics and economy. I am immensely looking forward to it and hope to see all aspects of Israeli society - the good and the bad. Of course you can't see everything in five days but if our itinerary is anything to go by we aren't getting much free time!
Over the next five days I guess this blog will take the form of a more conventional diary, as I doubt whether I will have a lot of time to keep up with UK politics, although I shall certainly try. I'll be using Twitter a lot rather than writing loads of posts a day I should think, so do keep an eye on the top of the screen, or simply sign up to my Twitter feed at www.twitter.com/iaindale.
I thought my days of getting excited about a foreign trip were long gone, but I do feel a tremendous sense of anticipation as we drive towards Heathrow. My only trip to the Middle East was 17 years ago when I went to Beirut. I had the chance to join a two week trip to Arab countries last summer courtesy of the Conservative Middle East Council but work commitments prevented me going.
Finally, a plea. Whenever I write about Israel it provokes some vile comments, even if what I write is balanced. I am a critical friend of Israel. I'll write it as I see it - both the good and bad. Feel free to disagree with what I write, but please do it in a calm, rational manner. I am going to be very censorious over comments that are anonymous and vicious. You have been warned.
Declaration of interest: I am not a politician so there is no reason for me to have to do this, but I know what people can be like, so let me declare that this whole trip has been arranged by the CFI and they have paid for my flight and accomodation.