When Jetlag Meets Jerusalem
Fear of the unknown has always scared me. What's gonna happen? When can I use the bathroom? Where do I go if I need help? I know, I know. I'm overdoing it. But this time, I feel I had something to be nervous about.
It all started in mid-July after a retreat in Big Sur. I was trying to decide between staying at my job, or going to Pepperdine University (I was accepted for my Masters degree, yay me!). For some reason, I just couldn't bring myself to deciding. No option truly stuck out in my gut. When I returned from my trip, my sister brought up going to Israel for the living and teaching experience. Sounded exciting!
Within a couple of weeks, I signed up, gave my work notice, and packed up my apartment. But oh my goodness, I forgot about that whole fear of the unknown thing. What if I don't like it? What if my roommate smells like cabbage? WHAT IF. But like most things I'm scared of, I go for it anyway - anxiety and all.
So I said goodbye to my friends and family, and made my way. I'm skipping over the part at the airport where I nearly panicked, and then bawled my eyes out through security check in. Luckily, there was a nice little Asian woman that patted me on the back and said, 'it's okay'. Thanks. I'm freaking out.
Moving along.. oh yes, the flight. As I got to the gate, all of the passengers were told to move aside for a 'suspicious package' that was under investigation. Oh, really? You mean kinda like how I'm sh-t scared of flying already? No biggie. We were all clear, and on the plane in no time.
The ride to Israel was interesting, to say the very least. Three people caught my attention. The first was my seat neighbor was Yossi, a nice man in his mid 50's. He said he was a tour guide. The plane was filled with his group, and bunch of middle aged sepharic Jews from Be'er Sheva who literally threw a party on the flight (even while some people were trying to sleep). Turns out Yossi forgot to mention (only halfway through the flight) that he was also a part of the Israeli internal secret service for over 20 years. Not surprised.
The second person was a man who called himself 'Claude', one of the participants on Yossi's group. He was interested in the program I was going on, so I shared gladly. I told him I was going to teach in a coastal city near Tel Aviv. Then things got weird. Perhaps he confused my kindness with flirtation. 'Maybe if you need help teaching, we can go out and I can teach you', he said. I politely declined. Umm..sorry, Claude. No can do, for many reasons. Mostly cause you're gross, and twice my age, although it didn't seem to bother you.
Third was Ariel, a kind man in his mid 30's. He, along with his wife and children were on their way to move to Israel. Jerusalem, in particular. He told me that he grew up secular in America, but something changed in his young adulthood. He found his spiritual side, and with it, found his happiness and love. We discussed religion, life in America, Israel, politics, and family. He invited me to Shabbat with him family. Like most Israeli's, he really meant it.
It was time for melatonin, a natural sleeping aid. Not sure how much it helped me, but I dozed in and out for a few hours. I woke up, put in my ear phones, and looked out the window. The day had turned into night, and the night into day. We began to descend. I saw land, and started to cry. Well, I thought I saw land. They were actually clouds. But then I really saw land, and took it all in. The coast was so beautiful and serene, lining such a interwoven and complicated country.
As we touched the ground, I took my earphones out and listened to the plane clap and cheer. People around me began to sing, 'Evenu Shalom Aleichem', meaning 'we have brought peace upon you'. And there I was, chapter one. Israel.