As our flight neared its destination, a stern voice came over the loudspeaker. “Government regulations require that no one be out of their seat for 30 minutes before we land at Ben Gurion,” she said. “If everyone does not return to their seat at once, we will not be able to land.”
That Israelis ignore authority is well-known, the stuff of jokes. When it comes to airplanes, everybody knows the one where the plane lands and the attendant announces, “Please do not stand up until we arrive at the gate and the Captain has turned off the fasten-seat-belt sign.”
A few minutes later the plane actually stops, and the attendant comes back on. “OK,” she says, “now all you non-Jews can stand up.”
When I heard the loudspeaker threat that we wouldn’t be able to land, I turned to the man to my right. “Sounds like summer camp,” I said.
Clive had introduced himself as a long-time Israeli oleh from Johannesburg. “It’s to deal with potential hijackers,” he said. “When I fly Turkish, they make you sit for an hour before landing.”
“I get the motive,” I said. “It’s the tone that reminds me of camp. You know, everybody’s being rowdy, so the Head Counselor stands up and yells, ‘If everybody doesn’t pipe down right now, nobody’s getting dessert!”
That threat may not be as serious as not landing, but at least it’s plausible. If you don’t sit down and be quiet, maybe they really won’t give you dessert.
The loudspeaker crackled again. “We must ask everyone to return to their seat at once,” said the voice, this time even more exasperated. “If everyone is not seated, we will not be able to land.”
OK, I thought. Suppose somebody doesn’t listen this time. What next?
“All right, passengers. We told you that if everyone doesn’t return to their seats we wouldn’t be able to land. But you wouldn’t listen to us, would you? So now you’ve gone and done it. Since we can’t land at Ben Gurion, we are going to have to proceed to the next airport that will let an Israel-bound aircraft land, which is Bangkok. You can make your way back to Israel from there. The Captain and crew hope you’re happy now.”
Didn’t happen, though. We did land. Maybe everybody eventually sat down.
But I doubt it.