Monday, April 23, 2012

Israel - And the Journey Begins ... Again Day I

View from Hotel in Tel Aviv
It has been nearly fourteen years since I last lived in Israel, and nearly twenty-two years since I have last flown El Al.  As a matter of fact, the last time I flew El Al was on Garin Greene, my NFTY Israel trip through the URJ’s Greene Family Camp.  I particularly remember being abused by the stewardesses on that flight.  Though looking back after these many years, it may have been all of us sixty or so teenagers who really did the abusing.  So it was with both excitement and a little trepidation that I approached this flight vaguely recalling my experiences all those many years ago.

Thankfully security hasn’t changed much.  The young lady asked, “midabeir ivrit.”  To which I contemplated answering, “kein.”  Until I remembered that my modern Hebrew consists mostly of numbers, colors and animals due to my young bilingual household.  Thankfully I answered the questions to her satisfaction, and I was able to get ticketed for my flight.  Though I will admit, going through the TSA twice was no great shakes.  

Boarding the flight was a typical Israel experience as the attendant announced, “now boarding all rows.”  It was a free for all.  Fortunately my seat was near the entry door, so I was able to scramble and get my seat quickly.

The part that I hadn’t considered was how I had to navigate space for my carry on amidst hatboxes.  Nowadays, I assume, many of the Haredi have very expensive hats, that they take rather good care of, and take up much of the overhead space.

The food is better than I remember.  But that may also be simply because this is the first in flight meal I have had on an airline in at least fourteen years. 

The stewards and stewardesses are still taciturn, but efficient.  But then again, to their credit, they are dealing with a mix of natives, tourists, and large ultra-Orthodox families who seem to crowd every nook and cranny on the airplane.

Some things have changed.  Each seat now has its own mini-LCD screen.  The use of electronic devices has of course made any international travel more bearable even if the seat sizes and legroom do not.  While on the flight I enjoyed watching several movies including Matt Daemon’s “We Bought a Zoo.”  I could spend a whole blog on how you need conflict and conflict resolution to drive a plot, and without it, it is like watching a PBS version of “This Old Zoo,” but I digress.  The experience was greatly assisted by my recent purchase of noise cancelling headphones, which came in handy with the very expressive and unhappy baby behind me who demonstrated this at midnight my time.

And yet, as I look around on this most Jewish and Israeli airline, I see young men davening.  I see young mothers (far too young if you ask me) nurturing their growing brood.  I see Hebrew on the LCD screen, and I know deep down in my kishkes, that I am coming home. 

I have heard that Israel has changed tremendously in from my last time here.  I look forward to finding out how it is the same, like much of El Al, and how it continues to grow.  

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