Israel in April 2010

I'm here. Safe and sound. I had a long journey "home" but in fact it was fairly easy. The first leg of the trip was Boston to NY which found me sitting next to a guy from India, in back of a guy from India - both going to Bombay, and a woman from CA, then later hanging around in line with an Asian going to Hong Kong, more Indians, and a woman going to Jordan. Such is the American melting pot. We all had time to get to know each other while waiting around for the fog in NY to lift. This melting pot of people felt somewhat familiar. Israel has a similar melting pot. The difference, however, is that in Israel we are all Jews - family.

Once in NY, I hurried over to the El Al check-in to the friendly security people who asked me all the usual questions. They hurried me over to security and the gate telling me that they were hoping to get the plane off early! (After all, it's erev chag in Israel and there were a bunch of people trying to get home for the end of Pessach!). Wishful thinking, as it turned out, the plane took off at the scheduled time.

Sitting on the plane, watching the people board, I realized that I was now already "home". It was clear that just about everyone boarding was Israeli, as opposed to tourists. Hebrew was the dominant language. The flight attendants didn't even bother to speak English. There were people of all ethnicities - and moms, dads, grandparents and loads of kids. They all shared one thing - they were Jews going to Israel. There's just something very settling about it all. It was high energy and chaos yet so very calming. Unlike the very well mannered people on the Boston flight, these exhausted, tired and weathered people were my family.

The kids were busy running all over the waiting room in the airport. The scene was like one of those "Where's Waldo" books - or a painting of a Breugal street scene. Maniacal yet somehow organized. Most people were interacting with others - very few on laptops, though cell phones were clearly a favorite!

Boarding the plane the kids were already busy claiming their chosen seats, feeling very free, confident and excited about the whole adventure. A family of 5 sat down near me - mom, dad and three little boys all under the age of 6 yrs. old. I watched the tired parents get the kids settled in. Then the tired dad, holding the youngest of about 2 yrs. gave his son a loving kiss as he settled him into the seat in front of me. Mom handed the baby bottled to Dad and dad shamelessly took a sip to see if the milk was warm enough. It was that loving moment that got me teary eyed. The Israeli dad's are so integral, engaged and involved. I watched the other parents with their babies and youngsters. Not a single parent, tired as they all were, raised their voice to their children. The other passengers were busy shoving their carry-ons into any free space available. Pillows and blankets were already all over the floor. The little girl in my row had already claimed her two seats and was stretched out sleeping, her head on her tired mom's lap, her feet already reaching my behind, which was okay by me. We all settled in and the plane took off.

As I sat on the plane I suddenly realized that I didn't have to think about bomb threats etc. This was El Al and I was with my people.

What a bunch of "shlumperim" we all were. Raggy taggy clothes, our hair dishelveled. Drawn tired faces exposing all the lines of worry, exhaustion and of age. Tired eyes yet still bright with life, wisdom, understanding and experience way past their actual age. You could see the inner beauty past the outer exhaution. The young Israeli "chatichim" and "chatichot" (hotties) doing their own thing. Kids changing into pj's right there in the aisles for all to see. Kids standing on the seats, and even on the arms in nothing but their undies. Personal space? What's that? Yet, there seemed to be more respect and patience than I remember from before. Maybe they're just too tired? There were only a few orthodox Jews this time aroun - the few who took a chance on making it to Israel before "chag".

The flight attendants were mostly young and attractive (in Boston they were older women arond my age). Ahh, then the captain announced that all the food would be kosher for Pessach and wished us a happy Pessach. Indeed the meals were all Glatt kosher and each meal came with two pieces of matzah. It was all really good too!

Anyway, I guess I was pretty tired because after the inital first 2 or so hours, I put on my eye viser (or whatever that's called), my headphones, some music for relaxation and leaned into my neck pillow (a must for plane rides!) and apparently slept for most of the trip. When I awoke I was told we had only 1 1/2 more hours until arrival!

Chana, always a loyal friend to me, met me at the airport. We traveled the old road back to Jerusalem where we picked up Inbal and then went to Maaleh Adumim. I dropped off my suitcase and Chana zipped Inbal and I over to her house for the holiday dinner. YUM - great food and great company. Three of Chana's 4 kids were home, one of Mimi's three and Inbal and I (plus the dog and cat). The conversations were lively - all of us talking at once as usual. Everyone curious about what the heck is going on in America and why do they (or more specifically, Obama) hate Israel so much? What about the Christians, why do they love Israel so much? What about me? What's this trip all about? Am I coming home already???? How can they help me now, and what can they do to help me come home? Finally everyone (but Inbal and I) got tired. Inbal and I walked home (no driving on chag!. Israel in April...