As the plane touches down in Israel, especially if you fly with Israel’s airline, the passengers applaud. The first time I heard it was the first time I visited in Israel way back in the late 90′s and I figured I’d missed something – we were about to crash and the pilot had saved us? – in fact it’s for a much more heart warming reason. People are just happy to be here. For many, coming to Israel is a homecoming in the spiritual and the literal sense. Not only for the Israelis coming home but for the thousands of Jews visiting the Jewish homeland, the Christians coming on a pilgrimage and the tourists who come to visit one of the most hotly debated yet arguably one of the most religious country in the world – for the 3 largest religions.
As I looked around the plane last night I saw just what a big deal it was for many of my fellow passengers. Hasidic Jews alongside nuns, a couple of priests, an elderly group of Christians and a group of Jewish teenagers from the States on their first visit. Amongst the business passengers and the visitors coming to their holiday homes there were many who were experiencing the awe you cannot help but feel when you first come here – infamous, historical, Holy; some people dream of praying at the Western Wall, attending worship on the shores of the Galilee. To them a trip here is a lifetime goal.
Not so much for me, my emotions were somewhat mixed; I was beyond excited about being back with my husband and children again having left them all for the first time on a trip to my particular homeland, however, to come back to the everyday stresses of living here after a whirlwind 4 days of ease; seeing friends and family, talking to people without concentrating, was hard.
As an ex-pat I am caught between the dream and promise of a new life and the reality of being the outsider, the dream of going home to my extended family where everything is familiar and the reality (in my case) of cold, grey weather and double dip recession.
I didn’t applaud when I landed but when my three little ones ran towards me in arrivals with I Love You balloons and screams of ‘where are our presents’ (in Hebrew) I did wipe away a little tear of happiness. Home again, home again jiggety jog.