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Destinations, Dreams and Dogs - International adventure with a fast-track family (& dogs) of Old World values, adopting the Russian-Italian-American good life on the go…!

Flying El Al to Israel

Israel-Akko-an-Old-city-1-0X84FWUWCL-1024x768Well, we are here in the Holy Land.  Quite a “trip” in more ways than one.  It all started with El Al Israel Airlines, which is like you’re in Israel even before you take off.

I must say that in all my years of flying, something was finally wrong with my airline seat.  For some reason, sitting with my four teens in the back of the plane, my place was half the size of theirs.  Yes, Seat 56C.  I squeezed in and my hips barely fit between the two side armrests.  Which could explain a lot of things, but I was not accepting the most plausible explanation of my having ballooned out of control.

“Petya, sit here,” I asked my oldest.th

He looked at me, having just gotten settled in a middle seat himself.

“No, I’m not asking you to sit here, even though it’s an aisle.  The seat is very tight, and I want to see if it’s tight for you, too, or if it’s really only ME-!”

Sure enough, he stuck in the seat, also.  I felt better, except for the fact that for the next 9 hours and 53 minutes, I was crammed like a thsausage into its casing.  His elbow repeatedly poked me in the ribs, plus, I COULDN’T MOVE.

My rear end hurt, too, from not being able to even slightly shift from side to side.  (Sorry if that’s TMI, but hey, this is my life.)  To add insult to injury, there was some equipment attached to the seat bottom in front of me, so I had a half-space for my legs and my “travel purse” the size of a large St. Bernard.

“Put it in the overhead bin,” Petya suggested, willing to cram our stuff in with the other cases shoved against my designer duffle filled with delicate electronics.

“Hey! Sir! I have cameras in there,” I shouted in Hebrew at one man from 10 rows awayPlane-Overhead-Bins intent on jamming half of his life into our overhead bin, along with all of the other men’s fedoras.

“Okay, okay, I’ll be careful,” he replied.

Our seatmates in our general environs were about 30 or 40 Ultra Orthodox French Jewish men, a handful of Russian-Israelis, and us.  The girls immediately involved themselves in the debate with the Russians about their overhead bins, and Petya and I became concerned when a 20-year-old religious guy was seated right next to my 13-year-old daughter, Sashenka.

Petya sat up, big brother on high alert.

r.php“You want me to switch with her, Mama?”

“Hmmm…”  I pondered.

A blonde-hair, blue-eyed young girl next to a young Jewish Orthodox guy who should not really be coming within 10 feet of any young girl, particularly one who might fall over him in the dead of the night flight.  Instead, she fell over her sister, taking up half of her seat.  And I had enough problems of my own with my mini-seat.2898762702_ce5349e17e_b

We took off at sunset, all of the men gathering for communal prayer, the Israeli Orthodox Jews in their areas, the French Jews in theirs.

“Do you want to pray?” the Israelis repeatedly approached particularly Petya, but also Pasha, upon occasion.

airplane-lavatory-door1The former answered, “Lo, todah,” (no, thank you), and the latter simply looked confused.  A couple of rabbis tried to push the envelope, in a nice way, never intimidating.

“So then, you’re “good”?” he asked.

“Ken,” (yes), Petya replied.

“You’re good?” he turned to Pasha.

“He’s good,” I inserted for him when my second son made absolutely no effort to communicate, but still looked confused.

Hopefully, God would not strike me down for lying in mid-flight on our IMG_2271way to a land of holiness.

Meanwhile, the young religious guy next to Sashenka, who played video games the whole way, karate-kicked the Russian guy’s seat in front of him when he was  accused of kicking the guy’s seat in front of him.  Religious or not, the French Jew obviously had anger issues, and God was probably working on smiting him instead of me at that point.

Not that I think the Lord doesn’t have better things to do than smiting people.

How-to-Get-Good-Sleep-on-a-Plane3-400x265That’s why, it was probably 6 hours into the flight when Pasha had not yet visited the bathroom, and when Sashenka had jumped up in the middle of the first dinner serving after only one hour on board, and when the flight attendants were out in full force with their rolling carts, that I decided the two of them needed to go to the bathroom. I realized that Jewish morning prayers over Europe would happen soon enough as the sun rose, not to mention a light breakfast service, further clogging the aisles and any available space in front of the bathrooms.

“I don’t have to go,” each assured me groggily, further confirming that they should go.

A mother has antennae for this kind of stuff:  whatever a child claims, asserts, or insists, he/she should probably do the toddler-sleeping-on-a-planeopposite.  That is what would be in their best interests.

“GO NOW,” I intoned in English and in Russian.

Everyone pushed and pulled me out of my sardine-seat.  I got up, Petya got up, in order for Pasha to get up.  Sashenka insisted that she had gone to the restroom only 5 minutes, if not 5 hours previous, when I was asleep and could not monitor her movements.

“You looked at your watch?  You mean the first time you went, after only a little while on board?”  I followed-up to the girl whose hair now looked totally crazy and disheveled, matching her mood.

With a huff, she got up, Mashenka having to move so that Sashenka could angrily make her way.  An American Airlines attendant from DC to JFK had just commented on our lovely children, too….

sleeping-on-plane1I figured, Now that I’m up, I might as well avail myself of the facilities.  My legs had, of course, swollen to double their size, with the lack of movement and cabin air pressure ready to bloat anything.  The more time I could spend in an upright position, the better.  Returning to my seat, I spied Pasha totally passed-out in his seat.  Petya came back to his seat a couple of minutes after me.

“Did he ever go?” I ask the 17-year-old of the 16-year-old.

He shrugs.

“PASHA, GET UP AND GO!” I hiss at him, waking him up to an even more-confusing world.

“Go where?”

“The bathroom.  NOW.”

He shakes himself and wanders around the first couple of steps of the aisle.  That’s when I extricate myself again from the357366514_cedf4e2a7e_z sausage-sardine combo seat and take him by the sleeve to a free lavatory on the other side of the plane.I am concerned that he might try to open a real door at 37,000 feet in the air, rather than a restroom door.  I let him find his own way back to Row 56 with bagel crumbs strewn about.  He walks past me and I grab him again.

“Look!” I point out as the two sleepy-heads return to their seats, “it’s the Swiss Alps!”

The sun is rising, the snow-covered mountains are glistening, but the kids can’t be bothered.  They need their beauty sleep.

“Mmhhfffhhff…” they are heard to mumble as they head back to dreamy-land.

8aJUHV6arPZ-_-landing-in-tel-aviv-ben-gurion-airport-tUpon exiting the plane in Tel Aviv and heading into one of the most beautiful airports in the world, Passport Control orders me in Hebrew that my children must present themselves one by one to chat with her.

“Good luck,” I think to myself, remembering security screening in DC.

“These are my children,” I told TSA as I headed through first.  “Okay if I wait for them here?”

“If you really want to,” the guy replied to me.This is your chance, if you want to take it….”

“Don’t push it,” I laughed, as all of us were ushered through a special pre-TSA screening line, where we were instructed NOT to take off our shoes, belts, light jackets, nor remove any bags of liquids or gels, along with computers.

So I guess miracles were already happening from the very first moment on this Holy Land trip.  May they continue now that we’re on terra firma.

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