Musings from our trip to Israel…
I would say the experience truly started on the flight from Paris to Tel Aviv. It was a full flight. Full of Jews–most of them young men in dark dress pants, a white dress shirt with a prayer shawl underneath, and a dark head covering in one of two styles. About a third had a long curl of side burns.
I was seated next to one of the more “liberal” young men; black, white, and prayer shawl: check. But instead of the typical head coverings, he wore an Under Armor baseball cap.
He was pleasant, which was convenient, because I suddenly found myself with so many questions. I’ve been quite a few places, but these people and their culture intrigued me perhaps like no other.
A few years ago, no matter how many questions I had, I wouldn’t have asked. But I’m older and much less inhibited, I guess. I’ll ask if I want to.
I asked why some had the curly sideburns and others don’t. He sort of explained…complicated. That’s the answer.
Then another lady came down the aisle. Are you in the window? I asked, pointing at the only empty seat left in our row.
“Yes,” she replied. “But I would prefer to sit here.” She pointed to my aisle seat. Well then. So now I was in the window. But my victim was still stuck next to me.
This young man was from a Jewish community in Long Island. He was returning to Israel to finish the last of three years of schooling in Israel. Apparently, in their final semester, the boys do a combination of one-on-one discipleship and group partying.
Why did he come to Israel to school? Basically, the answer was, “it’s complicated.”
Sitting in the boys’ section gave me a little taste of what they probably mean by partying…they were asking the flight attendant for Whiskey and watching crazy stuff on their iPads. Probably not much different than a bunch of guys from Long Island not Jewish.
I asked him questions about the economy, the safety, the lifestyle… and the recurring answer was that Israel is a complicated country.
I asked him what he would do after school and he said, “Go into finance. Like every other Jew.”
At least that one wasn’t complicated.
He hoped to get married soon so I asked if he had a girlfriend. I got the impression that the girlfriend thing hadn’t worked out so well for him, but the fall back was matchmaking. Apparently, a process now largely handled by moms. Sounds complicated.
I asked him how many kids Jewish families had and he told me, “Some have as many as God gives them. Some have as many as they can handle.”
Okay, so I did refrain from asking how they keep their little caps on. Some had little clips, but others mystify me. But I had to let him nod off after a while.
While he slept, I tried to think of a creative way to bridge our conversation into the gospel. But when I tried, he was clearly not interested. That much was simple.
If the airplane food was in any way an indication of what food they serve in this country, I am going to lose weight on this trip. The only thing on the tray I would label as “good” was a piece or dark chocolate the size of my thumb.
But then, never judge a country by airplane food. Even my captive seat mate didn’t eat it.
It was about midnight when we landed. I said goodbye to my new friend and we took our weary bodies to the hotel looking forward to exploring this complicated country for ourselves.