Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Bon Voyage - Nesiya Tova

Monday, January 9, 2012- 3:32 pm EST

So, as I sit here writing this-- somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean-- Tel Aviv is 8 hours and 30 minutes away.

At this point, I'm nervous. Not as nervous as I was last night-- I couldn't sleep for the life of me. Even now, however, I'm not really nervous for all of the reasons I expected, like meeting people and traveling to the other side of the world (okay, I am a little nervous). I have already met a group of girls that I know I will spend time with over our 10 days in Israel, and my plane seatmate AJ, a photography student from Chicago, and I have already had some great conversation. I can't wait to get to know everyone else in my group!

So yes, I'm nervous, but more so about practical things-- did I pack the right clothing? Do I have everything I need?-- Guess I'll find out soon enough.

My flight left Newark a little after 1:15 pm, but the day started at 6:30. After getting ready, eating breakfast at the hotel, and doing one last inventory on my suitcase, I arrived at the airport to meet my group around 9. Then, we had to wait in a never-ending line (that gave us a chance to chat and get to know each other a little) to individually be questioned by El Al security officers. With a mixture of body language analysis, answer interpretation, and following their gut feeling, the officers deciphered our answers to determine if our intentions in going to Israel were pure or not. Some of the questions I was asked were:
  • Do you know any Hebrew?
  • Did you attend Hebrew/Sunday School? What was the name of it?
  • Were you Bat Mitzvah'd?
  • What's the name of your temple and rabbi?
  • On what occasions do you and your family attend synagogue?
  • Who's the Prime Minister of Israel?
  • All the normal questions about the contents of my luggage, who packed it, etc.
Pretty intense, huh? I'm grateful for their thoroughness, though. El Al is famously known as the safest airline in the world. Why? Because they have to be, and if that means I'm put through a few extra security measures, I'm 100 percent okay with it.

After clearing security, there wasn't much time to kill before boarding, so I made quick phone calls to my parents and Boyfriend and then discovered that my water bottle was broken and leaking, so I had to make a mad dash to Hudson News to buy another one. Then, it was time to board. I have to say, it was quite an interesting experience boarding a flight with the 40ish people in my group, plus several other Birthright groups, and a slew of Hasids. I knew things were about to get interesting. :)

My seat is literally in the last row of this huge 777 plane, which, at first, I was disappointed about, but I think it's actually in my favor. Instead of three seats in a row, there's only two, and I'm on the aisle, but we have an extra fold-down tray to put stuff on. Plus, I'm close to the restrooms and all of the extra blankets are in the overhead bin above me. I'm pretty comfy all the way back here.

The only complaint I have so far is that the sound on my movie player isn't working. The flight attendant said she'd reset it, but nothing yet.

Dinner was absolutely delicious (and absolutely huge)-- pasta with meat sauce, a salad, pita bread and hummis, and a brownie. All kosher, of course. Yum!

My watch is already set to Israel time, and it's telling me that it's 10:51 pm. We land at 7 am and immediately begin touring, which means that I've got to get some sleep.

I'll be on the ground in Israel in 8 hours and 4 minutes. Say what?

Just a few photos from the flight:
The movie viewer...that didn't work
Is this not the largest airplane meal ever?
Certificate of Kashruth
Way to get your mood lighting on, El Al.

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