All right, I’m writing this from Café Aroma in Givat Shmuel, about 5 miles from Tel Aviv.
Yes I made it, and it was an incredible experience. I got to JFK at around 10:30 yesterday morning, checking in went very smoothly. We then we had the departure ceremony and before long I was going through security and down to the plane.
The plane ride itself was an interesting experience. Not like you’re normal international flight. As Jerry Seinfeld says “You know when you’re sitting in coach and the stewardess close the curtain to first class they give you a little look, ‘well, maybe if you’d worked a little harder.’”
There wasn’t really any of that in this flight, there were no curtain’s and I was walking back and forth over the entire plane. First class and business class was reserved for NBN and Misrad Hapanim staff, and press, including Baltimore’s very own Phil Jacobs of the Jewish Times. But anyone was allowed to visit anyone in these seats.
My Rosh Yeshiva was sitting in First Class, and at one point I went up to talk to him, and got to experiment with the very cool chairs that they have up there, chairs that literally folded flat into a bed.
The truth is besides the seat there wasn’t anything else impressive about First Class. At least on this flight, the food was the same as everyone else’s, the entertainment was the same, and (the moment of truth) the bathrooms are exactly the same as coach (except in First Class they had soap).
The landing also went very smoothly, we debarked the plane to a hoard of press with lots of camera’s including my friend Yehuda (I’ll post his pictures later this week.
We then boarded a bus to take us the “old” terminal of Israel’s old airport. This airport has pretty much become the Nefesh B’ Nefesh airport, and the new airport is used for everything else.
We were bussed into the terminal to, we were told, 900 people waiting to greet us. There was certainly a lot of energy in the terminal, something about Jews returning home, I don’t know it makes some people excited☺
There was a welcoming ceremony, including a special presentation given to the oldest member of our flight, an 88 year old woman, who had been on the ship Exodus 61 years ago. The ship tried to get into Israel, but was sent back to Europe. Now she finally made it to Israel.
I then went upstairs to start my initial process by the Misrad Hapanim, this is where I received the first lump of my absorption money (temporary ID card), my Tudat Zakaut and my voucher for my free cab ride to my first place in Israel and made my first big mistake. The mistake wasn’t actually in that particular place, it was after I’d gone downstairs to get my luggage, I went into the entrance hall and some guy swooped down on me asking for my travel voucher so he could get me a cab. I handed it to him and 30 seconds later he appeared with a driver.
My mistake was I forgot to go and get registered for healthcare and apparently about 2 minutes after I left, they were in there looking for me. So I’m going to head to Misrad Hapanim tomorrow and get to deal with my first taste of straight Israeli bureaucracy! That should be fun.
I’m staying in Givat Shmuel for about a month or so, and it wasn’t until I got here that all sense of my rational broke down. For approximately 5 seconds I stopped and yelled “I’M IN ISRAEL.”
That was it, went back in rational mode.
One last note, for any of you who were worried about today’s bulldozer terror attack in Jerusalem, I was nowhere near it. From what I hear 5 Jews unfortunately were injured, including one who will need to have his leg amputated. We should hope that they all make full recoveries, and the terrorist (who was killed by some quick thinking citizen and border guard policeman) is brought to justice.
For press on today’s flight:
(check out my guitar case)
I’ll post more as they become available. Anyways, it’s now about 11am in America? I’ve been up since 6am yesterday, and I’m going to go crash soon.
SHALOM FROM ISRAEL