Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Now, was that bird an Arab?

So, I've been a slacker and I'm sorry if you've been checking in.
Coming back to New York has taken a little more out of me than I thought.
The clock and time and who the hell was George Bush to redesign Day Light Savings, anyway?. That didn't help. I see 2 am a lot. I see 6 am. I feel like it shouldn't take this long, but a few people have told me it is one day for every hour difference. I'll buy that, it sure feels that way.

They loved me in Newark airport, the Jews. I was asked a litany of questions before I even left New York (New Jersey, for you sticklers). They weren't crazy about my last name. They weren't too keen on me not having any Hebrew.

"What is your Hebrew name?"

See. I knew I had one. That I knew, but since I had never been Bat Mitzvahed and all, I didn't pay too much attention to it. I knew my sister's for some reason -vaguely, but I decided not to lie.

"I'm sorry, I don't remember."

The security agent took my passport and said she would be right back. It was clear that I was not Jew enough for El Al. My grandmother always teased me for looking too much like a shiksa.

When she returned:

"I have reason to believe that someone may have given you a bomb or another item and placed it in your bag."

I had to report at Noon.

After a bag check, a shoe swab, and escort to the plane I was permitted to enter the State of Israel. Some of my compatriots did not fare as well as I did. There were strip searches, lost cameras, and one guy was so upset after he got to Israel, he turned around and went home.

The group of us that were asked to step aside, were wondering just what it was that flagged us. Did we look different? Were our answers insufficient? What made us look like a terrorist would give us a bomb?

I realized after a little bit that every one of the Israelis who just put me through the ringer, had probably been in the IDF. El Al knows how to keep the skies safe for the Chosen People.

You know what is beautiful, like mountain, Mediterranean beautiful? Not being able to read advertisements or sales pitches because they are in Hebrew. That, my friends, is worth a ten hour transatlantic flight. There are no English cognates in Hebrew, nope, that's right, I couldn't even get close.

"Hey, Rachel? What do you think that says?"

"Box, box, squiggle, ccchhhaaa."

"You think that means they have falafel?"

I am wearing a red string around my ankle. It is supposed to ward off evil. I put it on just before I stepped down to the the Kotel, just before I washed my hands and approached the wall, near the ramp that might start another war. I was supposed to make a wish and tie it. I forgot. So the red string represents a red string, until it falls off. Then, it will simply be gone.

Did I tell you I watched a bird be murdered? Yeah. By a fisherman near the Andromeda Rocks in the old port city of Yafo, which is part of Tel Aviv. He cast his line behind him and asked our unmanagable group of Americans to please move back. I still say it only happened because he was focusing on us. Distracted, he cast, and somewhere, above the ocean, his hook met with a the breast of a passing bird and struck him dead. The bird took a nosedive and sunk into the ocean. A single feather fluttered, spiraled, and followed its body down to the sea.

The entire group I was with fell completely silent for the first, and only time in our ten days together.

I screamed, "he killed a bird!" Just in case no one had noticed the bird, now a death brick, fall into the western most waters of the Mediterranean Sea.

If that bird's religious affiliation had been known, THAT may have been a political act on the part of the fisherman. We didn't ask, and he kept fishing. The bird's carcass looked like it was helping the angler's endeavor. Our tour guide moved us along.

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