Within a nine-day span, I traveled aboard El Al. But the two flights couldn’t have been more different.
Sunday, July 22, I flew 10 hours with 231 Jews from across the United States and Canada who had decided to begin new lives in Israel. Some came with families. Some went to join family members already there. Others came alone. All seemed incredibly happy, and very certain, about their new journey.
Few slept during the flight, probably due to a nice mix of excitement and nerves. With so many little children on the flight, many parents spent time walking up and down the aisles, either chasing after toddlers or calming down infants. Older children were entertained with some arts and crafts projects headed by staff members of Nefesh B’Nefesh, the organization that helped the new olim during every step of their aliyah.
There was a lot of clapping during the flight. Every time an announcement was made, at least one section of the plane burst into applause. And, yes, that even included comments by the flight staff that they would begin walking down the aisles selling duty free items.
So I arrived at the airport for my 12:35 a.m. July 31 fight home ready for an exciting evening. It was not to be.
My first hint was that about one-third of my fellow travelers were teen-agers, heading home following several weeks of learning mixed with fun. As participants in numerous Jewish programs, these young people really got to know Israel and gain an appreciation for the small country.
Immediately I thought, oh great, rowdy teens who were probably going to sing and chat through the whole flight. But then I overhead so many of them calling out, “Anyone have an extra Benedryl?” or “I have Advil PM, need some?” Thanks to the wonder of these over-the-counter drugs, most of these teenagers were fast asleep before we even made it to our traveling altitude.
Other passengers were coming home following a family visit or a wedding. They were tired, happy and fell asleep on their own. There were some passengers just beginning their vacations. Many were going to visit the family and friends they had left behind when they made aliyah.
Not everyone did sleep. Some read. Many others switched between listening to music or watching a television show or movie free to passengers.
For me, I did a bit of reading, watched Water for Elephants and slept on and off.
And so, with the interior plane lights off, lots of sleeping people and no clapping, my nine-day journey was brought to a close.