Nineteen hours into the trip to Israel, we are aboard El Al flight 8, somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean, west of Lisbon. Lights are out; the plane is quiet. More than half of the passengers are asleep, except for me, Mark Wolfson (one travel partner), the Chasid up front putting on his tefillin to pray (it’s morning somewhere), and the Israeli behind me (who we believe is more than just our average traveler).
The trip has been beautifully uneventful so far, with a thought-provoking moments to keep the blood flowing.
(1) My travel partners for the first leg of Israel Adventure 2009 are Or Ami congregant Mark Wolfson, his two sons-in-law Dan Glassman and Jon Bronson, and his son-in-law-to-be Sundi Munavu. Mark and I traveled to Israel some five years back, during the Second Intifada. We called ourselves Or Ami’s Advance Team/Mission to Israel, ensuring for other congregants that it was safe to travel there. I will post my reflections from that trip on the blog. Anyway, going through security with a Kenyan proved interesting. As we have seen many times before, El Al security is phenomenal. I have never been so peppered with so many different questions, which I assumed would be checked out if there were parts that concerned them. I think security spoke with all of us, except Sundi. When the two security people conferred in front of me, in Hebrew, I chimed in, also in Hebrew. Was that a test of whether I was really a rabbi? As fascinated as I am with the security, am I being paranoid? Nonetheless, they waved him through. Sundi and I had an interesting conversation about profiling (called racial profiling here in the States), and about whether or not it feels different getting on a plane to Israel rather than driving through the U.S.A. Sundi seemed more accepting of it than I might have been, perhaps because of knowledge about an even higher level of screening to go in and out of Kenya. Which brings me back to the Israeli behind me. Is he our own personal Air Marshal, positioned such that he can keep an eye on us… on Sundi?
(2) Traveling the first leg on an American Airlines flight (El Al’s domestic partner), we were offered a choice of two meals: pulled pork or antipasto with various meats in the ham family. You’d think that if El Al partnered with another airline, you could expect at least ONE non-treif meal option. The salad, cheeses and warm chocolate chip cookie carried me through.
(3) American Airlines gave us each a personal video screen, preloaded with movies. Cool! I played a few games, winning at Sudoku. I began to watch Bottle Shock, a based on reality movie about a 1970’2 era blind taste test pitting California Wines against French Wines. Supposedly the Californian wines won, in France. I wouldn’t know, because they collected the video screens 40 minutes before landing, leaving me 20 minutes from the end of the movie. Wouldn’t you know it, not five minutes after they took back the screens, the captain announced that weather had shut down some runways at JFK and we would be circling for a bit. We landed 30 minutes late… Bummer. I’ll have to search out the video when we return.
(4) We are flying on a 747, in the upper deck. How cool! There are about 24 seats up here. Kind of private. The only scary part about it is that if, G!d forbid, we had to use the emergency slide out the emergency door, we are waaaaaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyy up here.
(5) I’ve been sleeping off and on. Though its 3:20 am California time; its 1 pm Israel time. Initially I planned to sleep straight through. Yet we arrive at 5 pm local time. If I want to get some sleep that night, so as to be awake to begin touring on Friday morning, I had better stay awake now. Not sure my body really likes 3:22 am.