Israel / Paris - Day 11

In the middle of my night, Peter's evening, he (with the help of Stephen) got me on an El Al flight to Paris.  From Paris I was going on a Delta flight to NY.

Wow, it was about 5 am and Lee, Nina and Jason had left for the airport just a few hours before.  I got up and went for run on the boardwalk.  People were just awaking, yet I had some company.  The municipal workers were cleaning from the day and night before.  I saw one of the workers find a bag of rolls in the garbage and he promptly put them out for birds to eat.  There were a few people in the ocean and a few bikers.  It wasn't hot yet and I had a good run.  I came back and emailed my friends who thought I was spending the next 2 days with them to let them know the change of plans.  It is really amazing how adaptable and supportive each of them have been.  I was sad to not be traveling with Josh, but he did understand.  I packed up, had breakfast with Elliott, Jonathan and Josh and then they went off on a bike ride to Yaffo. 

The cab rides in Israel, I guess more specifically the cab drivers, touch my heart in Israel.  Each ride we have taken has included a personal narrative of each driver.  You get in and you don't only get a ride, you get a story.  I guess it is more than worth the shekels I pay.   This last ride to the airport the driver had some strong opinions (I am certainly not saying I agree with each drivers opinions).  I love the fact that there is this engagement.  That we are talking about the same issues, that he wants to know about my kids and surely wants to tell me about his.  He wants to know if I study Hebrew, if I do Shabbat, what my parents do, why I live in America and not Israel.  It is funny, in another circumstance I might have been annoyed, feeling that I am being judged by my answers (I do sometimes in Israel, feel judged) but not today.  I felt that there was a common language.  And then when he began to talk about the political situation, he was passionate, both about peace and about fighting for his country.  He told me his rank in the army from many decades ago. 

The familiarity with which he showed me his tehillim (psalms) that he studies when he waits for passengers (he is not religious).  He spoke of community, connection to family, loss of life,  anger, pain BUT not fear.  Similar to another driver he laughed at the concept of pulling to the side for a siren, he was quick to add, unless the passenger wants to of course.

So I got out of the cab, after these 11 days of listening to narratives of prominent Jewish Israelis, Arab Israelis, Palestinians, professors, activists, musicians and I felt just as humbled by this narrative on the way to the airport.  And I felt a sense of profound loss.

It was as if all the emotion caught me at once, I knew I wanted to get home, and I knew that once I got on the plane, to anywhere but Israel these narratives, this intensity (for better or for worse) stops.  So with tears in my eyes and a last glance back at the people (because for me it is not the land) I took my stuff and walked away.

The airport was empty, in an eerie sort of way.  Check in, security, bag drop off, it took minutes.  And then I waited.  I had wifi, so I was in contact with my friends up and out in Israel.  There had been many sirens in the morning they said while I was waiting to board.  My flight was delayed and I didn't know if the rockets or sirens were the reason for that. 

We finally boarded and most of the flight were Israeli children.  I was flipping through the El Al travel magazine and on the first page was Tefillat ha derech (the prayer for when you travel).
May it be your will god, to lead us to peace and safety.  To fly us in peace and safety to our desired destination, to find life, joy and peace.  Guard and watch us who fly the air routes and cross the seaways and travel overland passes.  Make firm the hands that guide the steering and sustain their spirit, so that they may lead us in peace and safety.  For in You alone is our shelter from now unto eternity.  God bless you and protect you.  God make your face to shine upon you and be gracious to you.  God turn Gods face to you and give you peace.  (This last segment is the priestly blessing, what I say to my kids on Shabbat before bed).  In a secular magazine, on the first page, I took a big deep breath and then I slept.

I woke up to landing in Paris.  I took the journey through the airport with a lot of other El Al passengers who were connecting to the Air France flight to JFK.  We went through security without boarding passes, we were told by all of Air France officials to get the boarding pass at the gate.  We took a long bus ride, a long walk and arrived at the gate.  Everyone else got their boarding passes and they told me that they didn't have me registered on the flight.  After a long half hour of no one doing anything they told me, that they found the registration, but now couldn't find my luggage and therefore I couldn't go on the flight.  Then they said that I didn't check in in enough time.

Although they all felt badly, there was nothing anyone could do to help me.  The manager escorted me through passport control and I was now in Paris (the airport).  I sat with Air France at their ticketing counter for hours.  It was challenging, I had no working phone, no wifi and I was really not their responsibility.  But Delta was dealing with them, so I sat.  They wanted me to leave, but I did stand strong and finally after 5 hours they got me a hotel room and on a morning flight.  Peter got me upgraded for tomorrow and I am now waiting at the bar to eat for the first time today.  The restaurant is closed.

I really don't mean to throw a pity party for myself, I am safe and that is the most important thing.   It  was a very challenging day and I am emotionally drained. 

Tomorrow will be another day.  I should be back in NY in the morning.

All my love.