The Middle: Speak Slowly, And No Sudden Moves


Jet lag, or re-entry, after a long trip is a bitch. Despite the fact that I had the most amazing time in Israel, by the time I got to North America yesterday— as in Toronto, Canada, and just shy of 30 hours into my travel—I was seriously doubting the intelligence of traveling to the store, let alone 7,000 miles for vacation. I still had another 4.5 hour flight ahead of me, and an hour’s drive home.

Old Jaffa

Old Jaffa

I was feeling pretty optimistic when the day started. I woke up Sunday at 5 am (albeit a teeny bit early) in Jerusalem. I was packed, and ready, and my girl and I took the bus to Tel Aviv (a beautiful trip) to visit an old friend, I knew when I lived in Chicago 20 years ago, as well as to catch my flight later that day. We spent the day seeing Tel Aviv and Old Jaffa, with my friend. It was a gorgeous day; the city of old Jaffa is incredible, and Tel Aviv was a surprisingly beautiful city—modern, and right on the ocean. That night we had a kick ass dinner at a kosher steak house in Tel Aviv, put my girl on a bus back to Jerusalem, and then I went to the airport at midnight, for what should have been a twenty-four hour trip home.

It was one kick in the teeth after another, from that point on. I had stayed awake all day planning to go through security and sleep at the gate, from 12-5:30, when my flight was scheduled to take off. It seemed like such a good plan, until it was so terribly not. I was informed that I wouldn’t be allowed to go through security until 3:30, which meant sitting in a big waiting area, with very little to do or see, and no place to really sleep. I walked, I sat, I walked. I ate an ice cream bar. I walked some more. When I did get to security, it was a breeze— a pleasant surprise, after all of the warnings I’d had about Israeli security. Apparently I don’t look like much of a security risk to Israelis, because all week I breezed through check points, security points and all forms of checks. Don’t get me wrong, they look in your bags… as in empty your carefully packed suitcase and then say “Ok, you’re free to go.” Good thing I’d made sure each item was configured perfectly in that suitcase!

Menorah at the entrance to Ben Gurion Airport

Menorah at the entrance to Ben Gurion Airport

There were several security checks, and they all seemed miles apart, before I made it to the main terminal. It is a huge circular terminal, with food courts and all kinds of shopping. All I wanted to do was sleep, but I kept thinking that I’d be better off waiting for my flight, and then I’d sleep all the way to Frankfurt (my 1st shop) and then some more on the 11 hour flight from Frankfurt to Seattle. None of it turned out the way I figured however. Instead, there was delay after delay, until the incredibly rude and unbelievably disorganized Israeli staff at Lufthansa, told us all that we wouldn’t get off the ground until about noon— yes, noon, as in nearly 7 hours late! In addition, I had checked flights from Frankfurt (where there was a snow storm) on my laptop, and had learned that my connection was already gone, and there were no more until some time late Tuesday. I was not getting on that flight, but Lufthansa was not making it easy to reroute me either.

I’ll spare you the miserable details of just how bad the staff at Lufthansa was… I’m sorry, but it really has everything to do with Israeli customer service (which does not really exist) and little to do with that particular airlines. It was not until I got all Israeli (read: bossy, aggressive and demanding) on them, that I got a seat for me and my wonderful partner in crime (an Argentinian man from Boston) on a flight to Toronto, and then on to Vancouver. I was not willing to go anywhere near Europe and its snow storm, but I figured that from Toronto I had the best chance of eventually getting home. What a trip it all was! By the time I staggered off the plane in Vancouver, I’d been up for 53 hours (except for 2 brief naps on each of my flights) and I’d started out from the airport 35 hours earlier.

When I woke up this morning, I was totally disoriented. I immediately looked for my girl, who I’ve shared a small queen sized bed with, for the last 9 nights. It hit me again, with a lump in my throat, that she is so far away. Each hour that I waited, each mile that I traveled, was a reminder of just how far away from us she is, and that was really hard. It made the travel that much more brutal, as I imagined when I’ll see her next. It made it that much harder, as I tried to hold on to the warm fuzzies I felt all week with her. It was just all around hard.

Today, everything felt jarring. Smart Guy asked me to meet him for lunch and I could barely stand the crowd at the restaurant. Every time someone spoke to me, it felt like they were talking really fast. Sudden moves made my head swim. A sofa has been the only solid place to be, most of the day.

Beautiful Scenery at Capernaum

Beautiful Scenery at Capernaum

I’m missing the incredible scenery, spectacular food, and wonderful people that I experienced each day that I was in Israel. They may not be great at customer service, but the Israeli people are my kind of people in so many other ways. They’re direct, wry, and passionate. They don’t use false pleasantries; what you see is what you get. They live in a land surrounded by threats, but they live a life filled with culture and magic. Everywhere we went, I was reminded of the awe-inspiring history and faith that has been a part of that land and people. The birthplace of Christianity, the Muslim faith and Judaism, I was humbled to stand in the crypt where Christ is believed to be buried (a much debated point, but close by for sure); moved to hear the call to prayer many nights while I was there, and I was surrounded by so many levels of Judaism, it was unreal! It was the first time in the 23 years that I’ve been raising Jewish children, that most of the people around me were Jewish, not just the like minded folks at our synagogue.

Orthodox Jews

Orthodox Jews

That in itself was the biggest eye opener in Israel, the stunning diversity of the Jewish people— and the overall level of open faith, that was everywhere I looked. Here at home, I have raised my children as minorities. They have always known that as Jews, they do not fit in entirely. The other Jews that they know are generally members of our synagogue; meaning: their Jewish role models were from very similar backgrounds as their dad, his family, and me. There hasn’t been much diversity. They have each experienced numerous attacks on their character, based solely on the Judaism. “Dirty Jew,” “Hey Jew,” “You’re the best/worst/funniest/Jew I know,” has been uttered to each of them, in the public schools they’ve attended. More than once. They have had a small pool of Jewish friends to draw from, and again, few examples of what a Jewish community looks like.

In Israel, so many of the people you encounter are Jewish, that it quickly becomes the norm. The man taking my order at the sandwich shop; the woman sitting beside me on the bus, saying her prayers; the strongly Orthodox or Hassidic men in their black hats, long coats, and with their long curls; as well as the store owners, the person working at kosher McDonalds, and most cab drivers, or each laborer and citizen you encounter, is just as likely to be Jewish, in Israel, than anyone else you see. That was a huge thing for me to see, and clearly a major reason that my daughter feels so happy there. She can practice her faith, surrounded by countless others who share that faith, or at least get it.

I wanted to hate Israel. I really did. I resented the entire country for wooing my girl, and keeping her. I resented the fact that she found it such a special place, that she would leave us and everything she loves here, to live there. Instead, I fell in love too. It got under my skin, and I found myself moved each day, each night, with each and every experience I had. My senses, my thoughts, my very being was altered each day— cast under the spell of  a place that has moved so many other people, that it has become a bulls eye for conflict, passion, and meaning, to people of countless faiths and backgrounds. I wanted to see Israel as just another trip, just another vacation, but it was so much bigger than that, so much more astounding, on virtually every level.

One of many great meals, fish in Tiberius

One of many great meals, fish in Tiberius

In the next few posts, I’ll try and share some of the wonders that made this all so fantastic. I could write more than one post on the food alone. That I walked and hiked and was active every single day, and still came back 5 pounds heavier, is a testament to food that rocked my world, each and every meal. I can say honestly, that I had only one bad meal (at a spa of all places), the entire time I was there… and every other meal was sublime. I could write several posts on faith. Mine was challenged, and rocked, and pushed to new limits. Would it be overstating to say that maybe I (re)found God? Probably not, but I’m still figuring that one out. I have never discussed faith with so many people, in such interesting and stimulating venues. I was interviewed by a French documentary team regarding my thoughts on Jesus; I shared countless intellectual discussions with young people about Judaism, and I was challenged to think about God and faith each day I was there. The experience was life changing.

There are so many things I could write about Israel, and my trip there, but my brain is addled, my emotions raw, and the sofa is starting to spin. Ask me about it in a few days, when I’ve settled back in, and re-entry is not so raw. When you do, speak slowly, and no sudden moves.

Do you love to travel? What’s your favorite place? What’s your worst travel story/ airlines headache. Share your thoughts in the comment. Since it’s gray outside, hit the Like and give me some sunshine. (Helps with the jet lag!) Check out Tales From the Motherland on Facebook for more updates, or follow TFTM on Twitter.

About Dawn Quyle Landau

Mother, Writer, treasure hunter, aging red head, and sushi lover. This is my view on life, "Straight up, with a twist––" because life is too short to be subtle! Featured blogger for Huffington Post, and followed on Twitter by LeBron James– for reasons beyond my comprehension.
This entry was posted in Adventure, Beautiful places, Blogging, Jewish, Judaism, Life, Musings, My world, Personal change, Tales From the Motherland, travel, traveling alone, Wonderful Things and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

23 Responses to The Middle: Speak Slowly, And No Sudden Moves

  1. Welcome home. I remember that jet lag – it’s awful. A few days and you’ll be fine.
    Glad it all went well– I knew you’d love it. Can’t wait for more details.

    Like

    • Thanks Lisa! I did in fact LOVE it! Not sure if you saw in my previous comment to you, but I did visit Ethnics and really enjoyed the store. I bought a lovely silver and onyx ring there, and they gave me the Lisa discount. 🙂 David Yom Tov was a lovely man, and I enjoyed chatting with him. Thanks for the suggestions!

      Like

  2. You brought the ache of leaving your daughter behind vividly to life. With two daughters of my own, I empathize greatly. I love reading of your experiences expressed so colorfully. My experience is that traveling brings up many topics and new perspectives. I look forward to your stories yet to come. In the meantime, I hope you get the rest you need to adjust back to your time zone. – Mike

    Like

  3. harperfaulkner says:

    Interesting. I spent a couple weeks there two years ago and came away with some thoughts, too. Not sure they are the same as yours, so, I will eagerly anticipate what is to come from your pen. All joy in recovering. HF

    Like

    • I’d love to hear more about your impressions… I’m still digesting. Overall, it was truly spectacular. The trip home, not so much. :-p

      Like

      • harperfaulkner says:

        I had a terrible time in the airport in Israel, but the worst airport experience was at JFK here in the states. New York folks were not only rude, but incompetent. (Not all New Yorkers, so no comments from anyone, please.) HF

        Like

        • We had Rude, incompetent beyond belief, and incredibly disrespectful. So many very upset people. My daughter kept reminding me, while I was there, that the Israelis are chronically poor with customer service. The Israeli people, on the other hand, are very kind and friendly. Not sure how that works out… but very distressing at the airport! I would go back in a heartbeat… or two.

          Like

  4. You made me remember, when I told my daughter we would be moving from MA to NJ (she was in 2nd grade) I told her that it would be nice because we’d be closer to family and there are so many more Jewish people there. She looked at me with her big brown eyes in her blonde curls and said, “But then I won’t be special.”

    Like

  5. Daryl Madill says:

    What a big, emotional, amazing trip you’ve had! I’m sure it’ll take some time to digest it all. And I’ve no doubt that the time you’ve spent with your daughter was so incredibly precious. Wonderful that you could see her world through her eyes…

    Like

  6. Your journey home sounds hellatious. I’m so glad the actual time in Isreal was so amazing and that you had such a great time with your daughter.
    I grew up in New York where it felt like everyone was Jewish. I never witnessed any of that tension and name calling by anyone. It’s no wonder your daughter loves it there. She’s free to practice her faith. That’s an integral part of who she is.
    Your descriptions make me want to visit this year. Just for the food alone! I’m determined. I will.
    I look forward to more posts when you get sorted.
    Lisa

    Like

  7. Carrie Rubin says:

    Welcome home! But what a miserable flying experience. I can’t believe you had it in you to write such a lovely post after all that. 🙂

    Like

    • I had hoped to be writing about food and experiences, but the travel did make things a bit unpleasant in transit… today I woke at 4am… So I think it might be a while before I’m feeling up and running again. Ok, maybe not running, but walking! 🙂

      Like

  8. Ruth Lerner says:

    Glad you’re home safe and sound after such a long, hard voyage. Rest up and I’m sure all will get back to normal very, very soon. Love, Ruth

    Like

  9. veronicad1 says:

    Saw you drive by today and wondered what time zone you were mentally in at that moment. Someone told me once that you need a day to recover for each time zone you were away. I hope you can sleep, sleep, and sleep some more. THEN, I want to read all about the best parts!!!

    Like

  10. sarafoley says:

    Welcome back. It sounds like your time away (I hesitate to call it a holiday) has been nothing short of transformational! I am looking forward to reading more about your discoveries 🙂

    Like

  11. Pingback: Jerusalem… It’s Hard. | TALES FROM THE MOTHERLAND

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