There’s No Place Like Home
One of my favorite things about flying back to Israel from a long trip abroad is the first glimpse I catch of the land, seeing Israel in all its beauty from above and knowing that in a few more moments, I will be home.
On my last trip back to Israel from a lengthy stay abroad, I started to get that at-home feeling at the Scandinavian airport from which I was departing. Since the flight was at an indecently early hour, we arrived at the airport in the dead of night — so early, in fact, that check-in had not yet begun. Despite our grogginess, we woke up instantly when we learned that the cab driver who had just taken us to the airport was something of a rarity in those parts of Europe — a Christian. He said goodbye by giving us a pamphlet on how to find Jesus, assuring us that the trip to Jesus was already paid for.
Inside the airport, we did not need to look at the screens to see where our check-in was, because the largest, noisiest line was quickly forming, and it consisted largely of Israelis debating amongst themselves and with the overwhelmed airport personnel. One elderly Israeli man in particular had started an argument with the young check-in agent manning the line: “What is going on here?” exclaimed the Israeli man, “What on earth is going on here?!”
The uproar had to do with the fact that passengers at this airport are required to check in independently at the machines before lining up for the baggage drop-off, and many of the Israelis were either unaware of this or were having trouble with the machines. A middle-aged Israeli couple behind us in line were also struggling with the machines, so I went over to help the woman. By the time I returned, her husband had cut in line and was now standing in front of my husband, who was too busy keeping track of our luggage and children to care. The woman’s husband thanked me for helping him and his wife out, and yet seemed to be completely at ease with cutting ahead of us.
While standing in line, we saw another family or two cut ahead in true Israeli fashion, and we admired their smooth and confident method: They simply lifted the barrier rope and went underneath it. No other Israelis batted an eye. Somehow, it seemed fair enough. They had mountains of luggage, countless children and the man was in a wheelchair. If anyone should have cut in line — it was they.
Fortunately, the line was made up almost entirely of Israelis returning from their summer holidays. Scandinavians generally do not look kindly upon that kind of behavior, while Israelis see it as common place and unavoidable. In fact, Scandinavians view cutting in line almost as harshly as tax evasion, which is saying a lot in a part of the world that is known for its exorbitant taxes.
In that little part of the airport, a small piece of Israel had formed. True, it was not representative of the finest that Israelis have to offer, but my husband and I could not help but smile and look fondly over at the noisy, authority-challenging, line-cutting Israelis, who simply had to start an existential argument with the staff about the malfunctioning self-check-in machines at 4 a.m. in a half-empty Scandinavian airport. “We can’t help ourselves,” said my husband, by way of explanation. “Israelis have a compulsion to challenge authority wherever they go, in any situation, even at 4 o’clock in the morning. Especially at 4 o’clock in the morning!” We didn’t care. They were our Israelis, line-cutting and all.
Later, on the airplane, my children were making a lot of noise, especially my young daughter — she seems to be going through a particularly loud phase lately. Normally, I would have received dirty looks from my fellow passengers, but as the plane was filled mainly with Israelis, no one paid the least bit of attention. What can I say? There’s no place like home.
Judith Bergman is a writer and political analyst living in Israel. Twitter @judithbergman. This article was originally published by Israel Hayom.