Thoughts in the air

Lunch on the El Al flight from L.A. to Tel Aviv.

Lunch on the El Al flight from L.A. to Tel Aviv.
Photo by Leisah Woldoff

As I’m writing this, I’m flying at an altitude of 35,000 feet and just passing over Philadelphia, according to the screen in the front of the cabin. I’m on my way to Israel for the first time in 20 years and have 5,721 miles – nearly 10 hours – left to go. A big difference from my usual schedule – last weekend I barely left the house (I did get countless loads of laundry done, though).I’m wearing the complimentary headset listening to a channel that has played songs in Hebrew along with Frank Sinatra and The Beatles and have watched two movies so far: The Oranges and The Perks of Being a Wallflower, both with Hebrew subtitles. Not being much of a world traveler – although I love the idea – I’m trying to absorb the idea that I left Phoenix on Tuesday morning and after a quick flight to L.A, I’m going to get off the plane on Wednesday afternoon in Tel Aviv.This journey is the start of a press trip to Israel through the American Jewish Press Association and sponsored by the Ministry of Tourism and El Al. I’m so appreciative of these organizations, as well as Jewish News Publisher Flo Eckstein, for this opportunity. (Not to mention of course, so grateful for my wonderful husband who is holding down the fort at home with our three young boys and a dog and for those family members, friends and co-workers who are helping out so I can take this trip).

One perk so far – in addition to the bag of goodies that El Al sent before the trip – was waiting in the Business Lounge in the International terminal at LAX. In addition to the beautiful sitting area, computers, TV and newspapers, there were also complimentary drinks and snacks, including kosher egg salad and tuna salad sandwiches. When the time came to board the plane, an announcement was made right there in the lounge. After checking my email, I met up with a fellow press trip traveler and we walked to the gate together. It wasn’t a normal gate, though, we rode in a bus across the runway to board the plane.

El Al’s slogan is so true: It’s not just an airline, it’s Israel. You feel it as soon as you get on the plane. There’s something special about being immersed in the Hebrew conversations, although I can only identify a few scattered words. It reminds me of sitting at my mother-in-law’s Shabbat table with her Israeli friends. The safety instructions are in English and Hebrew, as are the signs. The food is kosher – and delicious. Dinner was pasta bolognese, salad, a container of Sabra hummus, pita and chocolate cake.

Right now,  the cabin is dark and I know I should probably try sleeping but it’s only about 7 p.m. my time so I’m not quite ready to do so yet. Maybe I’ll watch another movie.

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