Journal Entry # 51 - Road Entry#41 (Tel Aviv to Cairo - 10:44am (Local) - January 21, 2011)


The day is Sunday, January 9th 2011 and I am waking up for a morning run before flying to Tel Aviv, Israel. Although my first marathon is only 19 days away, I am more excited to start meeting new Taglit-Birthright friends and get into Israel. My morning run goes amazingly. I churn out 6 miles up Foothill blvd and back to mom’s house before Max Sugerman is supposed to arrive. Max is the first person I will meet from the trip as I offered him a carpool ride from La Canada down to LAX with my parents.

I am just getting out of the shower when Max arrives. He is right on time and I am running 10 or 20 minutes behind schedule. I still have to pack my bag in the living room where I have everything I need laid out on the ground. Max is introduced to Paul and my mother and the cordial introduction follows. Max is from San Francisco and is in La Canada because he has family that lives there. He is 21 years old and is working and going to school simultaneously. My frantic baggage-ing doesn’t allow me to listen completely to what Max is telling Paul and mom and it seems as if he’s withholding information from the 3 of us until I settle down.

Mom, Max, and I then drove to pick up dad at his house in North Hollywood / Toluca Woods. Once we arrived, I got out by hugging dad and making him get inside the car ASAP. It is now 9:08am and we have to be at LAX by 9:30am.

Dad asks to me to take a moment together in the kitchen where he wants to give me a gift before the trip. He generously gives me a book on the American Civil War – specifically Valley Forge – and a sentimental card that shows his appreciation, love, and admiration of his oldest son. I was deeply touched and moved from his thoughtfulness.

Dad then took over driving responsibilities from mom because he drives slightly faster with more emphasis on lane and speed efficiency. He got the 4 of us to the airport at 9:31am. PERFECT. I said goodbye to both of them before walking in the international terminal of LAX with Max. Initially, Max and I see a giant group of people politely standing in proximity to one another – with limited and courteous interactions. At this point, we have no idea of what dynamic and connectivity we will have with one another – but the feeling is mutual.

Right around 10’o’clock, we get into the El Al Airlines check-in line as a group with Noah B leading the way. Noah and Alison are our American trip leaders for the 10 adventure throughout Israel. As we get in line, we all start to slowly and methodically introduce ourselves to one another. I can feel the excitement amongst one another brewing in this period – right up until the El Al employees start questioning the first group of Taglit members.

I wasn’t in the beginning of line, and I could see why the organization calls for such a early meeting time before a 1:30pm flight time. There are a lot of people to interview!

During the interviews, I was standing in line next to Ben and Hannah – a couple that lived together in Brentwood. We spoke for 20-30 minutes about each others lives and the recent activity we had all had leading up to this journey. I learned that Ben was a Detroit, Michigan native and Hannah was a southern California native. They had met in LA and decided to do the Taglit trip together. Ben runs his own business and I think Hannah is finishing up school (nursing?). My interview with the Israeli airline worker came after I shared introductions with Ed and Liz as well (more about them later).

Rotan was my interrogation representative for the day. Rotan is from a small town in between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. I got to know this because I had asked her at the end of my questioning. She asked me all about my previous travels, my previous Shabbat and High Holy Day celebrations, if I had remembered any prayers, and if I had any family in Israel. Some of the questions were very specific, and it was hard for me to remember the exact details or dates for these questions.

Once I answered all of my questions honestly and whole-heartedly, I went to pick up some food from a food joint in the terminal before entering the gate area where I find food to be more expensive. Ironically, I walked by a sushi food stand and bought a $15 sashimi and sushi platter due to the misconception that the Middle East doesn’t carry or serve Japanese sushi.

I took my carry on bag and my sushi to the security checkpoint where I was scanned and patted down for toxic chemicals, explosives, weapons, and dangerous items. From there, I ran into Noah and Johnny in the hallway as Noah was doing a sweep of the terminal to make sure all travel members would be at the gate by high noon. I walked with them to the point where I was so hungry that I just sat down with the first Taglit-Birthright members I saw and joined in on the last minute scramble to eat. I didn’t finish my sushi, because we had only 5 minutes to walk the entire length back to the other side of the terminal.

The 40 Taglit members and 2 American group leaders were at the gate and gathered around 25 minutes later – right before the plane would be getting ready to board and depart. Noah instructed each of us to share our name, current place of residence, and an addiction that we enjoy.

This ended a the brief introduction to what would be a 10-day ice-breaking trip. After this moment I opened up to the group that I was an Oregon graduate and wanting to watch the Oregon-Auburn National Championship game once we got into Israel the next evening. I had the time difference between the countries figured out, I just needed to find a platform to watch or listen to the game live at 3:30am Israel time. And as for SERENDIPITY, this was my view-scape of the tarmac before boarding for the flight...

Everyone contributed to the ice-breaking ceremony and when it was my turn I said I am in search of a place to call home and that I am addicted to a variety of things that included traveling and running. From here, we all got to speak with one another for a bit more before boarding the 747 aircraft to Tel Aviv-Yafo. My ticket read seat 31F and I was greeted in this behemoth of a jet with a middle seat in the third cabin area. My travel counterparts, 31E and 31G, were both Israeli men. One was a younger, modern looking fellow with leather boots and Harley Davidson patches on his jean jacket. On my left side sat the complete opposite of my right. He was a white-collar business man from Israel that seemed to travel frequently between the states and Israel. All of these notes are coming based off observations as I only spoke to either of them as a courtesy before my trips to the restroom and stretching sessions.

During the flight I watched a couple of movies and wrote a blog entry. I saw “The Town” with Ben Affleck and loved it. I also watched parts of the new “Wall Street” movie and “The Social Network”. I wrote for as long as the battery lasted.

I could do all of this because the flight lasted 14.5 hours non-stop to Tel Aviv. I had planned to sleep for at least 6 of these hours and only slept for 2 of them. And 7500 miles (12,500 Km) later, I landed in Tel Aviv with two swollen feet/ankles at 1:30pm on January 10th, 2011.