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Israel Diary: Up In the Air

There was a moment – years ago – when I stood alone under the Eiffel tower. I was forced to accept what my eyes were telling me; that I had actually, improbably, made it to France. My grandparents had lived there; friends had visited and returned. But me? I lived my life under the assumption that Paris was never a place I would actually reach. There were too many other priorities, and my life’s trajectory clearly was not going to take me anywhere near the City of Lights.

In that instant when I stood under the monument to the 189 World’s Faire I found myself to be transformed – I found I was suddenly someone I had never expected to be.

As I write this, I’m sitting on on flight 152 from Atlanta to Tel Aviv, my family around me and 4 more hours to go before arrival. I have this nagging suspicion that I’m on the verge of one of those moments again. Israel was always a “someday we’ll go there” destination, said more as a wish than a plan. Like Paris, it wasn’t something I realistically thought I would get to – at least any time soon. My life’s trajectory was clearly taking me elsewhere. My old job had suddenly ended, I had one child on her way to college and two in a private school, and two cars that were loudly telling me that the days of maintenance-free driving were coming to an end.

Bills to pay, a job to find, ends to make meet, blah blah blah. Nowhere in there is a blinking neon sign that shouts “take a trip to the Promised Land!”

The funny thing about using a phrase like “my life’s trajectory” is that it presumes the projectile (that would be me) is able to really grasp where it is going.

Clearly – at least for this particular projectile – that’s not true. Because here I am eating horrifically bad pizza as the “wake up” meal (they don’t dare call it breakfast, and someone in Delta logistics thought pizza was appropriate since it’s 5:00pm Israel time, even though all the passengers are just waking up) and the pilot is telling us in both English and Hebrew that it’s time to prepare for landing.

How did it come to this? Honestly, it’s not important. Suffice to say that I didn’t win the lottery and we aren’t flying first class. Nor did I hear a booming Charles Heston-esque voice telling me “Lech Lecha” – “Go to a place I will show you”. Nope, it was a case of planets which seemed a galaxy apart suddenly coming into alignment, of decisions and consequences, of planning and research and revision up to the very minute we departed.

Miriam Beard said: “Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.”

Having read how meaningful it was for my daughter to visit Israel, and how much she saw and experienced, I’m left to wonder if I will be as open to opportunity, let alone as eloquent in writing about it, as she. But only time will show that for certain.

For now, I’m wondering who will get on Delta flight 153 from Tel Aviv to Atlanta in a few weeks, and if that person was someone I had ever imagined I would become.

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