I wasn’t sure if this would even be worth telling, but my mind is wandering back to the last time I was coming back home from Israel, and I now feel the need to share this.
This is about my last flight on El Al, coming back from Israel to New York. At one point, I experienced very alarming turbulence, and there are no words to describe how blessed I felt to have flown with Israelis/Jews through it all.
The flight was originally delayed by an hour. The lady said there was mechanical failure that was being repaired. I kind of wish she didn’t say it like that, but at least she was honest.
Because of that delay, they started giving out meal vouchers. I remember once “voucher” was announced on the system, SO many people shot right out of their seats and ran towards the counter. There was one traveler at a nearby gate that commented, “Israelis hear the word ‘voucher’ and they all get up and run like they have never seen food before.” I quickly turned back to see who that jerk traveler was, but I wasn’t able to identify him.
Even though his comment may have been a very lighthearted joke, it seriously bothered me. I felt it burn into my mind somehow. You can read more about my thoughts on stereotypes on Israelis/Jews here.
Boarding with Bubbie
I sat by the window seat, and seated next to me was a Bubbie that didn’t speak a drop of English. I know scattered bits of Hebrew, barely enough to construct low-level fragmented sentences. The instant she saw me, there was a very warm connection. She clearly adopted me as her granddaughter.
Even though I am young and perfectly fit, Bubbie was caring and attentive towards me, and I let her because I saw the joy she got out of it. She double checked to ensure I buckled my seat belt properly, and adjusted my pillow and blanket for me. She also slid my hair towards my back when it was covering my face.
You should have seen how unhappy Bubbie got when I declined the first meal from the plane. In my defense, I was already full from a heavy breakfast plus voucher food. She looked at me like I did something so bad, and got up and brought over some bread and water for me. She wouldn’t stop looking at me till I finished eating it. Then she got up again and brought me a SUPER DELICIOUS bright pink lollipop-flavored ice cream. Bubbie was happy to watch me wolf that down. She got up a final time soon after, and got me a chocolate wafer snack. I ate it, and basically motioned “Please no more” to her. Bubbie smiled, gave me a thumbs up, and shook the crumbs off of my blanket.
That was love. She gave me genuine love.
The words of the jerk traveler echoed in my mind, and I just wanted to show him the love that Bubbie gave me. It felt like one of those heartwarming “only in Israel” things you read about online, because yes, that was Israeli/Jewish mode in action.
I was sleeping at one point. Then I quickly awoke to what felt like being in a high speed car that suddenly hit the brakes. That jolt. Thank goodness (and thank Bubbie) my seatbelt was kept on. Unlike any other turbulence I’ve experienced. There was literally a very noticeable 3-second vertical drop, then another. The pilot said something over the speakers in Hebrew, which was not followed by English translations.
I was just frozen in place. I calmly started whispering the prayers Muslims are supposed to say before they pass- just in case. Though I was uttering those words, my mind was admittedly elsewhere. Unlike what I’ve always heard, my life did not flash before my eyes. Instead, I thought of the last time I saw my love of my life. I remember thinking, “Oh God his gaze… did I tell him I love him… I didn’t cause I was rushing… it’s okay, he knows I love him.” I was at peace, cause by then I also finished saying my prayers.
I snapped out of that trance as I felt a hand on my head. Bubbie was blessing me. Here we were experiencing scary turbulence, and Bubbie was focused on giving me a blessing.
Then I remembered that I was on a plane, and started looking around. A great majority of the young adults sprung to action, to ensure the comfort of the elderly, children, and of the mothers that were tending to their crying babies. I knew again- that was Israeli/Jewish mode in full effect.
Where was that jerk traveler? He needed to see this!
Now I know, many would argue that that wonderful behavior by fellow passengers was a humanity thing, and not just an Israeli/Jewish thing. And to that I’d say yes, that’s how it should be across the board, but it isn’t. There wasn’t a single person whipping out their phone to take videos of what was going on. I was probably the only young person focused on myself. I saw people physically holding others back to ensure they stayed seated upright. I saw a teenager trying to calm a man he didn’t know who was hyperventilating. Not a single person was cursing or anything (which happens frequently over minor inconveniences in US domestic flights). And then there was Bubbie, motioning if I would like something to drink even though the plane was still shaking.
This genuine sense of selflessness, care, and community- that’s embedded in the DNA of Israelis. Jewish people in general are the product of generations of resilience. The reason why they make such a big mark in this world despite the fact that there are comparatively few of them in population is because of that resilience, selflessness, care, and community. It’s because they are trained their beautiful core values since infancy. It’s because they are there for one another. Sure, some sects may have conflicts with others, but in case of emergency, that glass will break. That root of kinship is what activates Israeli/Jewish mode.
I hope one day someone tells the jerk traveler that.