“Don’t Let the Jews in the Airport!” — My Bizarre Ride Home
Okay… I know the title is probably overly dramatic. It wasn’t quite ‘persecution’ but more just sad at the lengths we have to go to protect ourselves when traveling to the Promised Land.
It is good to be home in Israel, but it wasn’t easy! I arrived at my US Airways flight from Philadelphia on time and boarded with everyone else. Being able to read on my phone while taking off was a helpful new addition to my flying experience. Little did I know how helpful that would be!
We taxied a long time. I didn’t notice at first, as I was reading on my phone. My biggest beef with the airlines is that they don’t communicate enough when you need information, and then they over communicate about nonsense, when you just want to sleep! (It really doesn’t matter to me if we are flying at 29,000 feet or 30,000!) But when I am waiting on the ground for almost an hour… tell me what is going on, please.
Finally, the captain came on to explain that we had a problem with our brakes. My first thought was, we won’t need brakes until we get to Tel Aviv— can’t we fix them on the way? We headed back to the gate, and after about an hour we headed back out to the runway. “We are number one for take off,” shared the pilot in his happy voice. However, after 20 minutes of sitting there I thought, either this is a really slow airport or we still have problems.
Finally, the pilot announced in his now sad voice that our brakes were still malfunctioning and we needed to switch planes. You could hear the collective moan throughout the plane. No one wanted to fly on bad brakes, but the idea of switching planes and then landing in Tel Aviv hours late didn’t excite anyone.
You are not Sterile!
To make matters worse, because we were going to Israel—the most hated country and favorite target of terrorists—we could not go back into the airport. You see, when you fly to Israel, you have to go through security twice. First, with everyone else, and then we go through a second, special Jewish screening, as we enter the gate. In the airport, once you have gone through security, you are in what the airlines call a sterile environment. However, like those with leprosy, we were told that we could not go back into main airport because we would become unsterile and then have to be screened again and the TSA people had already gone home—(It was now after midnight.)
Even though I know these strict security measures come from Israel and not Philadelphia, it still annoyed me. We are a peace-loving nation (who right now has soldiers in the Philippines, helping those devastated by the resent typhoon). All we have ever wanted is to live with secure borders. But the rest of the world won’t have it. Islamic nations hate us, they have oil, the west needs oil—end of subject.
Stand against the wall!
So we sat for an hour or so until they allowed us to leave the airplane. But then, like those under a quarantine, we had to stand in a single file line against the wall… lest, God-forbid, someone becomes unsterile! However, they soon ran out of wall space. With over 300 people, they needed a new solution. Next, we were graciously allowed to enter the waiting area for gate A17. When a man tried to take his child to relieve himself, he was scolded! “You can’t leave here!” Fortunately, wiser flight attendants found a solution.
300 People standing against the wall, waiting to go to the Promised Land
There is always time to laugh
Israelis love to laugh. We have learned to laugh in the face of terrorism and scud missiles, so finding humor in this was easy. In the midst of our joking, I asked one of the passengers, an orthodox Jew, where he was from. “Ra’anana,” he answered.
“I live in Ra’anana,” I said, “What street?”
“Golomb,” he shared.
“I used to live at Golomb 30 when we first moved to Israel.”
“I live at Golomb 30!” “Eyze Keta! (what a coincidence).” More jokes, more delays and then – finally – at close to 2AM – we boarded and took off quickly at 2:10 AM, only a few minutes—literally—before, by law, they would have had to get a new crew, and we would be stranded another two hours—at least.
We are not “like all the other nations” (1 Sam 8:5)
It was the first time I can remember taking off in darkness and landing in darkness. Instead of getting home at 4:30PM, I opened my front door at close to 10PM. No worse for the ware… just another story for the blogosphere and a stark reminder that no matter how long we have desired it—from the days of the prophet Samuel—we will never be like the other nations. Standing against that ridiculous wall, with crying children and the elderly in wheelchairs, guarded by an army of flight attendants, it was made all too clear. Israel is different. I embrace it!