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August 28, 2016 4:41 am

There’s No Place Like Home

avatar by Judith Bergman

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Ben Gurion International Airport. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Ben-Gurion International Airport. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

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?!” ‎

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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. 

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  • Holy Shirt

    Is it true that visions of modern Israelis boarding crammed rush-hour buses inspired the Jewish festival Shove-You-Out?

  • robert

    thoroughly enjoyed the article! put a warm spot in my heart knowing these are not characters in a movie, instead, warm human beings.

  • Jeannette

    On my first trip to Israel (with husband and 4 year old daughter), we landed at Ben Gurion at about midnight and got to the desk where we would collect our rental car at about 12:30 AM. It had been a long day; we were all tired. Then we couldn’t find the documents to prove that we had a rental car booked and my husband and I started to quarrel. The young man behind the desk then started giving us a lecture in philosophy, how it wasn’t that important, how we should take the long view – I don’t remember the details.

    I thought, only in Israel would you get a lecture in philosophy at 12:30 in the morning from the clerk for a car rental agency.

    • Linda

      Love this!

  • On one of my many visits, years ago while staying at the spectacular Old Jaffa Hostel I strayed late one hot afternoon into a curio shop where an old Ashkenazi man had thousands of antique and knock off ornaments, rugs, hookahs, postcards, costume jewelry and who knows what else crammed into a relatively small but in its way chaotically organized space. It was in an alley adjacent to the shuk – need I say more? Anyway, I was in process of buying a necklace from him, taking my time and wasn’t sure that the rope chain was quite long enough so the sale appeared in slight doubt. I never dreamed I was trying the old guy’s patience but once my question was clear to him he grabbed it from my hands in exasperation and forced it over my head onto my neck declaring: “it fits! It fits!” Stunned with incredulity I didn’t know whether to get angry or laugh so I did a little of both before shrugging it off and making the purchase it. It did fit. Like he was my grandfather. I was too scared not to buy it now! LOL1! Good thing I’m from NYC where rudeness, though not to that steroidal degree is requisite but this particular occasion was really one for the books. I was assaulted by an old Ashkenazi tchochke’ merchant and lived to post about it on the internet. Though I don’t live there I’ve had enough encounters to think I get it. You roll with it, the tchochke’ chutzpah and stay grateful for what we have. For better and worse, fit or no fit we’re all we got. B’seder? B’seder.

  • sifter

    Same kind of ugly behavior that bans youth from foreign hotels, creates antipathy to Jews, and sends Western olim back home in disgust. Time to grow up.

    • Yeah, we’re world class class champions at making enemies. Credit where due. Staggering reliability.

    • SE Florida

      Calm down. Israelis are “interesting.” Others are boring. A few years back Vanderbilt University (Ivy of the South) started recruiting Jews again after a falloff and one of the reasons for bringing them back on campus was this comment from the chancellor: “Jewish students, by culture and by ability and by the very nature of their liveliness, make a university a much more habitable place in terms of intellectual life,” he said in an interview.
      http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB102003890421804360

      Be proud. Plenty of “others” are of us.

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