Finally! My brain was working so fast this past week that I couldn't seem to capture its contents in words. I'm also recovering from a long, drawn-out case of jet lag (this morning was the first time I slept past 3AM since I returned), as well as lingering annoyance about my luggage (which finally arrived on Saturday morning, from destinations unknown). I'm trying to compose a long email to my family and friends about the trip, and will post excerpts--with additions I feel more comfortable writing here, which is kind of strange, but true. Before I begin, however, here's what I wrote on the plane going over:
Dec. 26: The security agent at the airport said "Shalom" and I had that shocked moment everyone said would come: yes, they speak Hebrew in Israel! "Ivrit, Anglit?" she continued. "Anglit," I answered. "You didn't learn Hebrew in Hebrew school?" she demanded. "What's your Hebrew name?" "Ahuva." "It's not Ruth?" she yelled, looking at the middle name on my passport, and for a second I was ashamed that my parents gave me the wrong name. Then I realized she must be trying to weed out impostors, or maybe this was the cultural rudeness I had already identified in New York cab drivers. We spent four hours in limbo at the gate--the flight was delayed because of the rain--and finally boarded at 2:30AM in a herd-like free-for-all, after waiting patiently for our rows to be called and then realizing they wouldn't.
As we took off, the lights in the dark sky above Long Island looked like rows of menorahs all lit for the eighth day. (A beautiful image, but still not enough to make up for my ill-considered choice of a window seat, where I remained folded up like a envelope for ten hours.)
I tried to sleep, but my Torah portion kept going through my head.
On the little screen in the seat in front of me I watched a few minutes of a film about the Kotel. It showed a figurative chain of Jews who touched those stones over thousands of years (all men, of course). I started to cry. Soon I could be one of those faces in the circles, at least in the non-Orthodox version of the film. I'm still not sure how much of this emotion is me, and how much is what I think I should be feeling because so many people are excited for me. It's almost 9AM, NY time (3PM here, somewhere over Europe)--maybe I'll know in a few hours.