Flying from Ben Gurion to Newark on the fully packed United plane is never a thoroughly enjoyable activity. Space is only available in the Business First cabin where I happened not to find myself on yesterday’s flight. Sometimes, as a concession to our old age, we do go for the extra megabucks but it seems so wasteful that usually we squeeze in with the rest of our brothers and endure. So it was.
There was not a single empty seat on the plane but there were lots of diverse body types, personalities, religious species, and a huge amount of rowdy kids, some of them sitting right behind me. Yeah. I know. Only one could actually be sitting behind me but he was kicking me so often and with such gusto that it surely was more than one little monster! I’m certainly black and blue from the endurance contest. He won. He didn’t seem to get tired of the kicking nearly as fast as I got tired of receiving the blows. His parents denied any and all responsibility. We all know those types of parents. Their kids are angels. So what if they abuse old ladies on airplanes.
Sitting next to me was a unique gentleman. Why? Because he was willingly sitting next to me. He was a Charedi, quite rotund, and decidedly not chatty, but he didn’t make a fuss when he arrived in our row and saw me sitting on the aisle. He never suggested that I should move. He never uttered a word to me actually and he was very careful not to rest his arm on the arm rest. This was fine with me! The only encounter we had was when I saw him frantically searching (admittedly in a very narrow area since the width of the seats is not what one might call spacious) for something. I cast a glance his way and immediately spotted the missing object. It was nothing less than his passport! No human being in his right mind would want to be forced onto the next returning plane to Israel, squeezed again into a horrifically tiny space, without a chance for rest and recovery, and have to return because he had no passport. Wordlessly, sensing that’s what he would prefer, I reached out for the navy blue treasure and handed it to him. He breathed a palpably loud sigh or relief, almost smiled at me, and reclaimed the passport. Again wordlessly. This was my peace offering. Maybe he now thought that an old woman in pants was not such a major threat to his morality after all. Just maybe.
A minor digression: United, for all those who might fly them, is soon retiring one of the 777 aircraft that they use to ferry people back and forth to Israel, replacing it with a new plane and a different configuration. Somehow the new plane, which will be used on the evening flights in either direction, will have 10 incarcerated humans across instead of the present 9. Nine is torture. Ten is inhumane. Forewarned is forearmed.
Also aboard our flight was a fairly large complement of Asians, Filipinos I believe. They are usually devout Christians with passionate love of the Holy Land. The stars are in their eyes. The flight doesn’t even dim their sparkle. As it does mine!
And the bathrooms. They are truly gross but necessary and only plotting and strategy gets one a coveted spot in there without standing on a long line. My husband and I usually try to meet our needs when meals are being served and everyone else is otherwise occupied. I give him my tray and then he reciprocates. The food is definitely worth missing. And why do all airlines insist that the last meal, served yesterday at 3 in the afternoon US time, 10 in the evening Israel time, be breakfast? As long as I’ve been flying this route that’s the way it has been and I can never understand it. Doesn’t matter. It’s not edible anyway unless you like eggs that taste like powder and frozen rolls.
When we mercifully arrived in Newark and were awaiting our luggage,I heard someone call my name. We Jews are indeed a small nation. I had met this man, an American Israeli, on our outbound flight where we discovered similar tastes in politics, and that he knew two of our three daughters, but from different places and times in his life. So then and there we had become Facebook friends. And here he was again, off to do business in Texas. Hi to him who shall remain nameless. Olam katan. Small world indeed when you’re Jewish.
I know all of us who fly between the States and The State often meet people we know. That’s just the way it is with the Jews.