so....after the security questions, we (Jill and I) put our luggage through the x-ray machine (those big ones that roll your luggage through on a conveyor belt, know which ones I mean? if you check luggage in the US you've probably put your bags through one). This is certainly routine, but by now I'm sure you've noticed that I wouldn't be telling you about it if it went WELL. Um....one of our bags got STUCK in the machine. Stuck enough that a security guy tried to climb in after it....then they told us to wait while they went to get the key to open the machine up....then they went for a knife and scissors....it just kept going....and we kept getting more worried about getting on the flight....until they finally got it out! The whole time we were laughing at the general comedy of the whole thing, and the security workers were also laughing at the whole silliness of it. I guess it's better to laugh than to cry. (Remember, it was almost 11pm, so we were also a little tired!)
Finally, we checked in...and then we RAN for our flight which was already boarding. Neither of us had ever been in the new airport except when we landed a week earlier, so we didn't know how long it would take to get through security and get to the gate....I had VAT to redeem and we also both planned to check out the Duty Free shopping and buy some last Israeli candy....but oh well! Whew....we made it onto the plane!
The flight itself was lovely and uneventful. I was able to sleep quite a bit, and watch movies on my own personal screen (love that part) and eat yummy food .... okay, yummy might be an exaggeration...but it was not bad for airplane food.
The flight that we were on was called "direct" from Tel Aviv to Chicago. Now, many people have recently reminded me that "direct" does not mean "non-stop." This, I accept. But generally, "direct" does not mean "you will have to get off the plane, go through customs, collect your luggage, re-check it, and then get back on the plane." But it does for El Al!
So when we landed, we did as we were told, got off the plane and went through customs and got our luggage and were prepared to re-check it...we were back in another security line with our luggage and Israeli El Al security workers (asking questions again -- hello, did we not just do this 12 hours ago? where did you learn Hebrew, what is your Hebrew name, why were you in Israel...) and then just as the American security guys were taking our bags to put them into another x-ray machine....they came over and announced that our flight was cancelled -- and not just cancelled but it was because of mechanical reasons (remember, we just got off that plane, we were supposed to get right back on it, and suddenly there was something wrong with it!?)....
To make a long story short (and let me tell you, it felt very long), it was about 5:30am, and they could only get us on a 9:30 flight (which ended up really being a 10am flight, they just told us 9:30 because that was the boarding time) to Chicago. At least that was a really "direct AND non-stop" flight.
So we shlepped ourselves and our luggage all over Newark to re-check in on American Airlines. El Al pretty much cut us loose to be with these employees of the airport, and the whole check in process was messy and ugly -- but we did it, we got on the plane, and we travelled home.
I must say I had tears in my eyes when we landed, just to be done travelling! (Of course, then I remembered that in less than two weeks, we're flying to Cleveland....but I'll cross that bridge when I get there!)
It's so nice to be home and see everyone here. To see my family (and they loved their presents -- they both look great in the Russian fur hat I bought for Michael!) and to drop into my office...it's wonderful to return to my loved ones and friends.
It's nice to be home. But I must admit, as soon as we were in Newark, I felt pangs of longing for Israel. I had to re-set my mouth to speak English to various security guards, clerks, cashiers, etc. I had to remind myself that the food I was purchasing at a kiosk just might not be what I think it is (kosher, that is). I had to remember that not everyone around me was a member-of-the-tribe. I had to return to being a minority in a Gentile world.
It is a strange feeling.
Even now, as I write this, I've been home for 24 hours, and it all feels a bit odd. I've done laundry and put it in the dryer (yay!) and I've caught up a bit on my television (don't laugh -- I watch the Apprentice) but there's still quite a bit of Marzipan rugelach in my kitchen... it's all a bit surreal.
For all of you who've followed my blog for the last two weeks, I appreciate all your emails and comments. I hope I've entertained and that you've enjoyed sharing my journey with me. There will be pictures to share, but I think that these words have given you the best of my story. Thanks for reading.
What a trip it's been!