Here I am, in Israel at last. I’ve wanted to visit this country for years, but the opportunity just never arose. This is a unique trip for me for several reasons. First, I am not doing volunteer work, therefore the trip is shorter than my normal. Second, I actually have a travel companion , and for those who have been with me for awhile, y’all know that’s a relatively rare luxury for me. It’s because of this travel companion, David, that I am traveling to Israel, since he invited me to accompany him to attend his niece’s Bat Mitzvah. I feel as though I’ve hit the travel jackpot: a wonderful destination, a more unique “local” experience, and a person who is actually willing to tolerate my company for the full duration of the trip. The travel gods are smiling down upon me.
As we made our way to Israel via several flights, I found myself musing over what a strangely familiar place the airport has become after years of traveling. When I took my first trip to travel through Europe many years ago, the airport was a place of stress—a purgatory between places. Now, I feel a sense of calm in this familiar place, as if it were a second home of sorts, a place where I can shrug off the heavy coat of my day-to-day existence and don something lighter and more fluid. It is as I was reflecting upon this serene thought, clearing my sinuses with a handful of wasabi peas, that a colorful German gentleman in a fuchsia sweater began swearing exuberantly at his laptop, his face contorting in expressions usually reserved for those who cut you off in rush hour traffic. So much for moments of serenity. I suppose just like any home, you cannot choose your neighbors.
So here we are now, in the Holy Land. When I set my agnostic (but respectfully curious) foot upon this hallowed ground, the heavens did not open up with the hand of God reaching out to smite me (smote? smeet?) down, so it appears the travel gods have intervened yet again on my behalf. We have arrived on Shabbat, the Jewish day of rest, so things are relatively quiet as observant Jews stay in their homes assiduously abiding by the commandment to keep the day holy. You might be as interested as I was to discover that although Judaism is the primary religion here with 76 percent of the population, 43 percent of that number identify themselves as secular. As a result, Israel is largely a secular country.
Anyhow, all of this rambling is my usual first-blog-entry way of saying that we have arrived at our destination safely and look forward to the adventures that await.