When life gives you a chance to go to Israel, you grab it, I thought to myself when unexpected opportunity came my way last Chanukah.
I was a little nervous leaving my husband with kids for the first time; even though, I knew that he was perfectly capable of taking care of them. But, as you know, parting with loved ones always hurts. Thankfully, leaving detailed instructions, lunchbox ideas and enough fresh clothes for a week, made me feel better.
I quickly packed my suitcase with typical Australian gifts for my family in Israel, and made my way to the airport, praying that Manuka honey won’t spill all over UGGs. My hand luggage included a thick book, a laptop, some crackers and make-up, unlike the usual load of nappies, spare clothes, toys, crayons, snacks, bibs and children’s stories we take along on our family trips…
I also took along a disposable Chanukiyah and 3 little candles, hoping to find a way to light somewhere in transit to publicise the miracle.
II – On the Road
No matter where you travel from Australia, it takes ages— from 17 ‘short’ hours to LA to exhausting 23+ hours to Europe. Never the less, this time, I was curious to re-discover my freedom and have all that time to myself, not focusing on changing nappies in the cramped plane toilet, and being able to read and write without interruptions. I planned to use time wisely to think about my life direction and dream big, and maybe even start writing an award-winning novel. After all, it’s been a number of years since I traveled alone.
I made myself comfortable in the seat and looked around. Three families with crying toddlers surrounded me. I sighed. You can’t hide from your destiny.
I opened up my laptop and tried to focus on my long-awaited ‘award-winning’ novel. Soon the lights went off and my writing mode slowed down. I wrapped myself in a cozy blanket and closed my eyes for less than a second to refresh my thinking buttons.
Surprised, I woke up 6 hours later, my head on the laptop, keyboard prints all over my cheeks.
Soon we landed in Thailand for my 3 hour stop-over. It was night time in Bangkok, and I wandered the airport asking staff to let me light the candles, promising not to leave the Smoking Area for security purposes.
‘Is it your birthday tonight, Ma’am?’ asked a cheerful Thai man.
“Well, sort of.” I didn’t bother explaining the story of Chanukah.
“So where is your cake?”
“I always light candles on my birthday but I won’t have cake,” I said with a stupid smile. “I am on a diet.”
The Thai man nodded and said: “No, Mam, no candles in the airport. Maybe buy yourself a gift at Duty Free, we are running a good sale now.”
I sighed. Without luck to light, I went to the EL AL section where I saw Israeli tourists, glowing with fresh look all tourists have when they go back home from a good vacation. They were tanned, dressed in white clothes, talking away about their Thai adventures.
I wasn’t jealous, but let’s be honest: we, Australian tourists, do go through multiple transformations during our trips. I also left Melbourne in my winning outfit, ready to conquer the world. Now, after 11 hours flight, I looked quite different with my messy wig, mascara all over my eyelids, and orange juice spilled on my skirt. I spotted another exhausted Australian traveler sleeping on the seat not far away, and joined her.
Interestingly, once on EL AL plane, my strength came back. I browsed through the Duty FREE magazine and found Magen Dovids and Tehillim books for sale; I was offered Cholov Yisroel breakfast and heard announcements in Hebrew, which made me feel special. We, tourists, tend to idealise a lot…
“I’d like to purchase this Magen Dovid,” I said to the flight attendant.
“No, don’t do that. I’ll give you the address of my good friend, a jeweler in Jerusalem, who’ll sell you the same thing much cheaper.”
Oh Israel… I missed you dearly!
To be continued.