The Adventure Begins

6:09 PM 0 Comments

The events of our last post seem like they were ages ago. Before time fades our memories, Rachel and I wanted to share the details of our journey with you. Since we will both have different perspectives (and since the whole point of this blog is to capture both of them) we decided to both write this week.

What follows may be a bit duplicative, but it is meant to be an explanation of Tuesday thru today. They have been some of the most anxious, exhausting, exhilarating, inspiring, bittersweet, never-ending days of our lives. This week will likely have lasting impacts on myself, Rachel, and my children (at least eldest).

Without further ado, I present to you the following ...

From Adam's Perspective

Monday Night (Nov. 17)

An email comes in at 8pm just after the kids are asleep from Nefesh B'Nefesh. Its title: 

Aliyah Flight Tomorrow - 5 Hours Delay!!!

Bummer. Maybe this is not a bad thing. We will just roll with the flow. It gives us more time in the morning. What rush is there anyway?

Tuesday Morning (Nov. 18)

Running around my parent's house making sure we have everything. Are the carry-ons packed? Check. Are each of the suitcases under 50lbs? Check. Is this really happening? Check.

The flight ended up being delayed even further. From 1:15pm until 9:30pm. Apparently there was a wildcat strike of El Al airline pilots. Because of the strike, a bunch of planes leaving Ben-Guiron Airport were delayed/cancelled, so our flight could not leave NY on time.

View of NY from our van on the GWB.
 We ended up leaving my parents around 1:30pm. Since we did not need to be at the airport until 4pm, it was plenty of time. As it turned out, we arrived at the airport with an hour or so to spare. What did we do during that time? Sat with our mountain of luggage.

13 suitcases, 3 car seats, 2 strollers, 10 carry-ons, 3 kids. Oy.
We met some other Olim that were going to be on our flight. Compared notes as to who was going where. Who had the most luggage (pretty sure that was us). Etc.

Total trips to the bathroom at the airport: 5.

Tuesday Night (Nov. 18)

After waiting in the airport for NBN and El Al to be ready for our flight, we made our way thru the various levels of security and checked our luggage. It turned out that after HOURS of packing and weighing bags that we were WAY off. As in our luggage ended up being much lighter than it needed to be. Some of the carry-ons were too heavy so we started stuffing things everywhere and shifting our bags around.

As I said, we spent HOURS in the past week getting the bags packed. We made an inventory to know where everything was. In a matter of 4 minutes, we destroyed that organization. O well.

Going through security proved to be a challenge. As frantic a few moments it was rearranging bags and getting them stuffed, going through security was even more overwhelming. I wish I had a photo of the length of baggage and bins that were lined up on the conveyor belt waiting to be scanned. Luckily they were not too busy because I am pretty sure we were there for a good ten minutes getting the kids and our bags through. And, of course, the whole time my eldest son kept asking me questions. Why this? Why that? How come? Abba, can you ...? Ugh.

Getting the kids to eat at the airport proved somewhat difficult. As it turned out, the kids spent most of Tuesday and Wednesday not really eating much. They ate snacks here and there, but really would not eat a meal. We did not push them, especially because they were not complaining of being hungry.

Actually, I think I was the only one who really ate on the plane at all. We were served two meals. Dinner, which was about an hour into the flight making it around 11pm. And breakfast. No idea what time that was served. Both were pretty good meals I thought. I enjoyed the chicken, and the omelette I had was not half bad. Now, if I was served that food in a restaurant, I would be a little disappointed. But being airline food, it was--dare I say--enjoyable.

Back to the story line.

We sat by the gate for what did not seem an overly long period of time. I joined a minyan of about a dozen men to say Maariv. The kids pulled out a LOT of toys and made a big mess. And we stressed about how we were going to get on the plane with the kids and all the luggage, while keeping the baby asleep. We failed on keeping him asleep. Once we were on the plane, he went to sleep fairly quickly and stayed asleep most of the flight.

We were assigned three window seats and two seats across the aisle. Did I mention that no one told us until we were boarding that the baby's car seat was not airline approved? We only asked three people before we got to the gate. Nevertheless, we could not bring it on the plane, so the baby had to sit on mama's lap the whole time. Ugh.

There we are on the plane. I think it took off closer to 10:30. About 45 minutes in we had dinner, and about 55 minutes in my daughter was asleep. Not my eldest. He kept asking questions. Why does the plane have to go so fast? Why does the plane need wings to fly? Can I go potty? More bathroom breaks.

By about midnight Eastern time, all three kids and the wife were asleep. The plane was quiet, and it was sort of relaxing. I think that was the first time in MONTHS that I felt like I could let my mind wander. I could really just free up myself to be in the moment and not worry about the details of life. It was the big picture that I was interested in. The grandness of the experience. The awesomeness of humanity. And the vastness and oneness of time, space, and Hashem. It was nice. Then I fell asleep.

Total trips to the bathroom on the airplane: 7

Total trips to the bathroom on the airplane while it was taxiing to the gate before the seat belt sign was turned off with flight attendants yelling at me to sit down in my seat, but me not caring so there would not be an accident: 1

After all, I am going to be Israeli. Something needs to happen, just do it.

Wednesday at who-knows-what-time (Nov. 19)

Before we got off the plane, at some point I woke up and saw a bunch of men donning their tallitot and laying tefillin. So, I got up and got mine from the overhead compartment. I was EXTREMELY careful not to wake anyone. I made my way to the back of the plane where the minyan was gathering. A few men had already started, but it did not take long to catch up to them.

I found my place standing next to the self-appointed chazan in a small pasasageway that was barely the width of my shoulders. It was hard to maneuver and bow without smacking my head against the wall. Despite it being one of the more bizarre places I have davened, it was pretty cool nonetheless. So thought a fellow passenger as he kept taking photos with his phone. He tried to not let anyone know he was taking pictures, but the constant shutter sound kind of gave it away.

In the last 45 minutes, the kids were awake and we stuffed the carry-ons with everything that had been removed from the bags. Again, Rachel and I spent MONTHS preparing games, activities, snacks, puzzles, headphones and the like for the kids on the airplane. They played with none of it. A lot of time and effort for naught.

However, the bright side of the flight delay was that the kids slept the whole time so the stuff was not really needed.

We got the kids dressed. We anxiously awaited the landing. And then it happened. A wave of applause and a flow of tears. We were in Israel. There was a speech by the flight attendants to welcome the 58 Olim to Israel. More applause. More tears. I have seen my kids smile countless times. For those that know them, you know that they are generally very happy kids. They laugh, play, and smile often. The smiles and excitement on their faces while we were landing was incredible. Looking out the window to see Israel with them was an experience worth remembering in detail.

It is now 1am the night before the kids start school. While I expected this post to be long. It is turning out to be longer than expected. Therefore, to do justice to the events I still need to tell, I will cut it short here tonight. Tomorrow I will post some more, and turn this into a series of posts.

Thoughtfully written by:

Adam Hopkins

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