On a Wing and a Prayer – Flying Towards Mayhem

Photo credit: Zimra Vigoda
Photo credit: Zimra Vigoda

“Sazi, it’s Money Time! United is canceling flights and I need to make sure I can get home. Please, get me back to Israel from California…somehow…“ I begged my good-fairy travel agent of the past 15 years.

“Are you sure you want to fly in between the missiles?” She asked, prompted by my husband and my 18-year-old son who was busy sending me pictures of the airport under attack. “Yes”, I replied, adding, “Can you try to get me a really good seat or an upgrade? I’m sure that the flight will be more or less empty.”

And so began my journey home. For the first time in a year and a half or so, I had left for California, by myself, to visit my parents, brother and nephew. My plan was to stay two and a half weeks.

Man Plans, God Laughs.

When I left Israel on May 4th, I couldn’t have imagined what would follow in the days that followed. but, as the violence escalated, by May 11th, I knew that I had to get back. My 13-year-old daughter was anxious, one of my sons is currently serving in a combat unit in the Shomron/West Bank and my other son’s friends are on the border. I couldn’t continue shopping in Marshalls,  eating my favorite ice creams and Mexican foods in the East Bay while my family in Israel was under fire. Right? I knew that I had to forego Baskin Robbin’s Rocky Road for the Long Road Home.

Photo credit: Zimra Vigoda Rocky Road

I also understood that the foreign airlines would (legitimately) cease flying into a war zone. I quickly purchased a new ticket on El Al, the only airline that continued flying to Israel from the States, a separate ticket to Los Angeles and a hotel room at the airport to make sure I didn’t miss this flight. I also swung a 12-hour rapid COVID test for a small fortune.

“Please explain again why you are heading back to a war when at least you are safe here?” my brother asked. His partner, added, “Yeah, I really don’t get it.”

I tried to explain the seemingly unexplainable to anyone who is not Israeli, but let it go with a simple “I need to be with my family. I need to be HOME”.

May 12th – I flew to Los Angeles from San Francisco, checked into my hotel and waited for morning. My fairy travel agent called me at 6 AM to let me know that the flight time was changed and I needed to get moving.

The flight was full. Three hundred some people, each with a unique story, were packed into that El Al Dreamliner. The mood was between tense and festive. I had the honor of sitting next to a hilariously funny woman on her way to her brother’s wedding in Arad, a group from Hatzalah returning from a two-week joint exercise with the LA emergency services, and a couple who went to visit family and left three young children behind with Grandma.

In other words, everyone on that flight, flying into the mayhem and the missiles had a real good reason to be there.

The airline provided us with free WIFI so we could “be in touch with our families”, a decision which turned out to be an excellent choice since until the end we weren’t sure which airport we would succeed in landing at.

As the plane circled Ben Gurion Airport for 20 minutes, tensions rose and when the plane landed, we all clapped and I believe that many of my fellow passengers, like me, thought of the ancient prayer, “Shechecheyanu” – “Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Sovereign of all, who has kept us alive, sustained us, and brought us to this season.”

Photo Credit: Zimra Vigoda

Today, sitting in a small town on the outskirts of Beersheva, in the midst of this “operation” (or “war”) and even more frightening -the civil unrest and violence within Israel’s cities and towns – I still believe, “There is No Place Like Home” and continue to pray for Israel and the Peace of Jerusalem.

“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
they that love thee shall prosper.
Peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces.
For my brethren and companions’ sakes, I will say now,
peace be within thee.
For the sake of the House of the Lord our God I will seek thy good.”

About the Author
Zimra was born in Budapest and grew up in New York City. She immigrated to Israel in 1994 and for the past two decades has worked with diverse for-profit and nonprofit organizations. Currently, she serves as a resource development expert on the Civics and Shared Education team at the Center for Educational Technology (CET) in Tel Aviv. Zimra is mother to 4 children, ages 12 to 21. Inspired by her 16-year old son Amit, a lower limb amputee, she is passionate about competitive wheelchair basketball and spends much of her free time rooting for her favorite teams. Today, she and her family are living in the Negev.
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