(Note: I've corrected this to make it clear that I was not, in fact, on the runway for 16 hours! Only 5.)
I started getting ready to leave two weeks in advance and, as usual, finished ten minutes before the car came to take me to the airport. Traffic crawled for over an hour, but I didn't mind. Israel awaited.
Turns out she had to be patient. I write this from the plane above the edge of France, 2,000 miles east of Tel Aviv and approximately five hours behind schedule, most of it and the many hours that followed spent in lovely seat 53B watching rain and lightning pelt pitch dark tarmac. Unlike their American counterparts, El Al pilots do not offer frequent, folksy announcements about how we're 23rd on the runway and will be in the air any minute now, Rather, we are told after two hours in cramped, airless captivity that the place will leave once re-fueled, whenever that may be. We hear this again an hour later. And two hours after that. I will never, ever again complain about waiting for a subway train. On the bright side, I have great Row 53-mates, and my worst fears of having to spent the night on an airport lounge chair were unfounded. (Although an airport floor would have been more comfortable than this seat.)
But despite a balagan of crying babies and annoyed, tired people forced to eat dinner at 2:30 AM--all is well. Unlike a year anda half ago, when I sat on the plane angsting about how I'd react once I saw that first Hebrew sign at the airport in a country where I wasn't sure I was supposed to be--now I know I'm on the way to family, gong home. I am completely relaxed. I'll be a little happier after a shower and long, Ambien-assisted night in a hotel bed, but overall it doesn't get much better than this.
Swimming in the beginning of Bereshit this past month, I've been wondering about the story of light. God creates it, then divides it into light and darkness. In the paragraph that follows, the sun and moon appear as sort of divisional mangers, marshaling illumination as needed. Where did that first light come from, that once upon a time before the fourth sentence of the Torah emanated from a source other than the sun? I've come to think of it as metaphorical: a spark of understanding, wisdom, binah, fuel to flames that allow the living world to to see the fullness of God's creation. As I get ready to walk in Israel for the second time, I remember my first trip as a kind of first light, a sun-strong sliver that came and went faster than I could comprehend. This time I hope to understand even more of what the next stage of brightness can reveal.
[Note: We arrived safe and sound--after 16 hours on the plane.]