I am currently on an excruciatingly long flight from Frankfurt to Los Angeles (then, to Denver) (there are four hours and twenty-six minutes left to be precise) and I have had the opportunity to reflect on our family’s two week trip to Israel. Here are some of my mind blowing observations:
1. She will be cold!
In Israel everyone thinks you are like a son or daughter-in-law and therefore have no qualms about offering their unsolicited advice on your parenting skillz. This happened to us not one hour after stepping onto Israel’s blessed, holy soil, as we were going outside after a lengthy discussion with our rental car guy (who knew that the real price you pay is like twenty five percent more than is written on the contract due to mandatory insurance!?) As we finally loaded our 16 bags on the free buggies offered at the airport, and after transferring my 8 bags from my defective buggy to a working one, we were on the move. My two year old princess was sitting in the top of the buggy, no coat to be found. Thought we, inasmuch as it is over 50 degrees here, it would be unnecessary to put a coat on her. However, the nice Israeli lady viewed matters differently when she told us “She will be cold!” This immediately brought us back 6 years earlier, when our eldest daughter was born here, and with a smile on our face we simply said, “Todah!” It felt great to be reunited with thousands of our family members in the Holy Land.
2. Dining with a soldier and a groom= a good idea
The first morning in the Holy Land consisted of an absolutely lovely breakfast with my parents, uncle and cousins. One such cousin also happened to be the groom, the star of the show, for whom we came to celebrate. As the wedding was fastly approaching he was already donning the civilian garb. However my baby cuz’ Yair met us at the restaurant, fresh from army duty. He was fully clad in uniform. Shortly before we intended to leave, the waitress showed up unsolicited, with to put it simply, the most magnificently delicious waffles and pancakes I have ever laid eyes on:
As I currently sit on this gorgeous, enormous Lufthansa aircraft, the one thing that is notably lacking is a nice selection of kosher snacks. Believe it or not, in Israel this was a non-issue. Even as we travelled to the far south or north, kosher options were plentiful. When I asked the hotel we were staying at in Mitzpeh Ramon if they were kosher the response was a “betach” (loosely translated as obviously, duh!) Similarly when we traveled up North and a soldier protecting the border with Lebanon offered my children candy, upon being asked if it was kosher, the response was a simple, short and a sweet “betach!”
4. What will they about me when I’m gone?
The night before leaving to Israel, my friend, and former boss, Rabbi Daniel Cohen was in town promoting his new book titled “what will they say about me when I am gone?” I have often thought about this and been inspired by its implications. On Friday night, as we walked back from a delicious meal at my sister’s in laws, I stopped in my tracks as I saw a sign announcing the death of a Rabbi Daniel Wolfe:
(I took a photo of it later in the week) Seeing this sobering sign inspired me to make sure to make the most out of this temporal life that G-d has blessed me with. Alfred Noble famously founded the Noble Prize concept after reading his own obituary (he had been presumed dead) in which it described him as the creator of the destructive dynamite. Seeing this sign similarly woke me up to make sure that I do not waste any time, and that I savor and cherish every second that the Abishter blesses me with.
5. Jupiler makes everything better
This one is pretty self explanatory- after a long flight from Tel Aviv to Brussels, throwing down one of Belgiums finest beers on the plane, for free made all the stress dissipate into thin air.
The main reason this trip was so special was because it provided us with so much family time, on so many levels. My siblings and I all get along very well, but we live in different parts of the earth. It is not very often we get to see each other, and not often our kids get to enjoy each others company. Being all together, with my folks, in the Holiest place on the planet was incredibly powerful.
It is also not every day (it’s been about 20 years since a our families were all together) that I get to see all of my now all grown up Israeli first cousins and my Aunt M and Uncle Herb–celebrating their family Simcha with them(something that 6000 miles has prevented us doing in the past) alongside my grandfather, 4 generations strong was such an intensely joyous occasion that will forever be cherished.
And finally, the intense family time I got with my own fam was amazing. My job demands that many nights in the week are spent out, running programs, etc….Baby sitters often tuck the children in. Spending so many days together, uninterrupted, was simply amazing. I got to know my children in new ways, and I cherished every second of it.
I recently was blessed with the opportunity to return to my home town of Denver Colorado, and it has been marvelous. However, as we were driving into Jerusalem for the first time on the trip– my first time back since our move back home to Denver– I was overcome with a sense of contentment at being back at my true home. While Denver is familiar, the most beautiful city west of Jerusalem, and is part of the medina shel chesed (country of kindness) there is no question that Israel is really home.
8. Anti Semitism is alive and well in Europe
I had mixed emotions about our stopovers in Europe (Brussels and Frankfurt to be precise). I have heard and read about different incidents in recent years but I still very much wanted to give the continent the benefit of the doubt. However it only took the first flight on Brussels Airlines to see the reality. While my wife was waiting in line for the bathroom, she saw a Flight attendant complaining to a fellow European how the flight from Tel Aviv to Brussels is the only flight that is always left a mess by the passengers (who are often Jewish). While I myself am admittedly a big advocate of cleaning up after oneself, and I can even understand the man’s frustrations, his sharing this with other passengers is not only unprofessional, but it perpetuates an anti-Semitic stereo-type of Jews.
Further more I had very mixed feelings about my first encounter with German soil. On one hand my great grand parents and aunts and uncles along with 6 million Jews were murdered by the German government in the Holocaust. On the other hand, the oldest German citizens I might spot were but small children during the War. I wanted to give the benefit of the doubt. The Lufthansa flight attendant were delighhfully friendly. And as we landed on German soil I told me kids this is where there great grandmother is from. I thought it was cool to be back, with my children. After we found our gate, I took a little stroll. And as I walked back to the gate, impressed how many people were drinking beer at 9:00 AM, I felt a man grab me, and push me, muttering something as he hurriedly passed. I think he wasn’t happy how I walked in front of him on my way to our gate. But to my defense, I don’t think I had a stop sign or a red light that I walked through. And with a yarmulke proudly perched on my head (there was now way I was intending to cover up my yarmulke with a hat in Germany), I am left to wonder if he would have reacted that way for anyone who barely cut him off, or if I got special treatment from him, as I am a proud, Kippa wearing Jude.
Regardless I think stopping in Europe was a wise move after going to Israel- because it makes coming home from our Israel trip all the more sweet. And as we are about to land in Denver as we speak, And I am watching the sun set over the majestic Rockies- I must say-its darn good to be back.