Traveling is always chaotic, especially when flying internationally. I was already schlepping far too much luggage for a minion like myself and was a little stressed traveling to this destination unknown, so I was hoping my journey would be smooth sailing. Of course it wasn’t.
My take off from Fort Myers was a little delayed, which I thought nothing of. I passed out before take off like I normally do – something about flight just eases every piece of me. When I woke up mid-landing, I freaked out realizing it was 4:30 p.m., leaving me 20 minutes to board my flight from Toronto to Tel Aviv. My flight taxied for what seemed like forever, actually 10 minutes, and I full on sprinted faster than I’ve ever run through the airport with my overly sized, hot pink, 20 pound backpack.
I had to go through customs between flights. When the man asked me where I was going and I sputtered “Tel Aviv” through gasps of breath, he laughed and said “good luck.”
I raaaannnnn to the gate to find all members were boarded and the gate was closed. I pleaded for the TSA man to let me on but he refused. Naturally, I started crying – usually this works like a charm – not so much here. I went to customer service where I found 8 (EIGHT!!!!!!!) other people trying to board the same flight. None of us were granted access.
Instead, we all had a 4-hour layover in Toronto, followed by an 8-hour flight to Frankfurt, Germany, accompanied by a 7-hour layover there, AND THEN a 4-hour flight to Tel Aviv.
It could have been worse.
Through the mayhem, I met some wonderful people and made great friends: a family originally from New York and Chicago who made aliyah, and now are raising their four children as Israelis. They instantly took me under their wing and told me to stick with them. I did and they brought me much comfort and laughter.
I also met a guy named Zach, who lives half his year in LA and half in Israel. He was returning to Israel to serve his final term in the Reserve.
Over our many layovers, we discussed everything from food, the Israeli Defense Force and farting in the Dead Sea.I was warned of the pushy people at the shuk and know not to get offended if someone verbally cuts me off. My time with these Israeli-Americans helped me see Israel from a new standpoint. It wasn’t from friends who had visited on birthright or the Frommer’s book I bought at Barnes and Noble. These were Americans who had chosen to move to Israel, so their perspective and opinions had so much worth to me.
They were so sweet and embracing, I can’t wait to reunite and do Shabbat with them. Without stepping foot in the country, they made me feel so welcome and so prepared. They gave me luck, knowledge and reassurance, and for that I am eternally grateful.