The airline wanted you there three hours before your flight left and on top of that there was a two hour drive to get to JFK airport, that is of course as long as there was no traffic. This meant it was going to be an all day affair. We didn’t care how long it would take as long as we got there safely. Once the car was packed, instructions for the dog and cat’s care left and goodbyes said, we were off. We prayed for safety, said tefilla ha derech (wayfarer’s prayer) and asked that there would be no traffic. Our requests were happily granted and we made it to the airport in amazing time! So much so we were actually the first people there! We laughed when we saw this and thanked Hashem for this kindness. We decided to eat our lunches to pass the time. Finally we were able to get in line and check in our luggage. We were so excited and nervous. We answered the first questions, put the baggage through x-ray and waited in line for our boarding passes. Wow, we were going to be done in no time. We chatted and we waited, and chatted and waited some more. Hmmm….this seems to be taking a bit long. After a bit the staff informed us that the computers were down, they were working as fast as they could to fix them and to please be patient. “Baruch Hashem”, I said. “This is all good.” I was determined to not let anything bring me down. Hashem had brought us this far, we just had to wait a bit and be patient. After waiting for quite some time the powers that be, finally decided they were going to have to do everything by hand. They did not want to make us wait any longer and they needed to get us moving. I have to tell you how amazing the El-Al staff really was. They were very professional and courteous. They got us through as quickly as possible and with hand written boarding passes in hand, we were on our way. After we finally boarded the plane, we had to wait longer, still because of the computers being down. Our flight that was supposed to leave at 4:55 finally departed at 7 PM.
For both of us this was our first time to Israel but for my youngest it was her first time leaving the country, (mine being when I went to Canada at fifteen if that counts at all) and her first airplane flight ever. It was a huge deal for us! Any nervousness she had she handled quite well. It was a smooth flight for the most part and although it was very long and the movies were nothing we were interested in, we were just happy to finally be on our way.
I can’t tell you how safe I felt on this plane filled with other Jews! It was really so neat for me, seeing everyone and all different flavors. When morning came and the men started their prayers, laying tefillin etc, I felt especially blessed. How beautiful it all was and how wonderful we were all going home, even if only for a visit.
The plane was soon coming into Ben Gurion airport and I had my first glimpses of Eretz Israel! I was beside myself with joy! There it was, Tel-Aviv! We were coming in for a landing and there it was! “Oh, Hashem how good you are to us! How kind You are to allow us to come to this Holy Land!” My heart sang out! I began to cry and cry. We were actually here!
To my daughter and me, this was the most beautiful airport on the planet in the most beautiful place in the planet. Everything was wonderful; from the free push carts, (which JFK charges three dollars for) and mezzuzot on all the doorways, to the Hebrew announcements and writing on the signs. We were ecstatic! We got our luggage, (thank You G-d nothing was lost) and anxiously proceeded towards the area where my son would be waiting for us. I began scanning the crowd eager to see my beloved son, who I hadn’t laid eyes on since the beginning of September. This was the longest I had been separated from any of my children. I saw someone waving at me and began to run, cart, luggage and all, toward my son’s direction. I was so excited that before I finally got to him I proceeded to run over another young man’s foot and spill my luggage all over the floor. “Slicha, slicha!” I said. (slicha means ‘excuse me’ in Hebrew and I became quite proficient at this phrase by the time I left Israel.) My son and I embraced and as you can well imagine by now I cried some more. We gathered up our strewn luggage got on a shuttle started on our way to Jerusalem, to meet Racheli and to visit the Kotel. This was the first place I needed to go before continuing on to Tsfat where we would be staying the first half of our trip.
I have a question. Or three.
10 months ago