Day 0 – The Journey’s Start

  For the next ten days I’ll be reporting on my own travels through Israel as I embark on a birthright trip. After my younger sister went on the trip this summer she told me in no uncertain terms that I wasn’t allowed to pass up this opportunity. I saw her pictures and listened to her stories, and had to agree. I got my act together, finally got my passport, and applied for the program.
    Four months later I’m sitting on a plane to Tel-Aviv while the rest of my group sleeps through the night. I started the trip at noon yesterday, leaving from Baltimore on the train. Traveling by train was also a first for me, and I’ve got to say it’s the way to travel. Two minutes after getting dropped off I was ready to board, no security, no lines, it was great. Then I got two large seats to myself in the quiet car, and was able to write and read without distraction while we sped north. The travel time might be longer than by plane, but overall I probably spent less time than if I had flown, was much more comfortable, and paid half the price.
     The train dropped me off in Penn station, though it left me with some sort of allergen that I’ve yet to shed. I tell you, sneezing every five minutes sure makes a great first impression. At least I won’t be forgotten. Penn station was an interesting experience, I wasn’t sure what I was doing, but when I found a subway map, not a trivial task mind you, I spent only thirty seconds studying it before a native asked me where I was trying to go and gave me directions. I never expected NYC to be such a friendly city.  The ride on the subway was also interesting, the breadth of cultures jammed into such a tiny space was astounding. Another hour of travel later and I was at JFK.
    Beyond the terminal we had no meeting spot, but I found several other people from the trip, who were also wandering around looking lost. Eventually we found where the group was gathering and got the all important nametags. Then it was off through security and to the gate, where we would wait another two hours before boarding the flight. I stopped at Panda Express before hitting the gate to get my last taste of some traditionally American food for the next few weeks.
   At the gate a group of us started talking, and we established that we were all at the top of the age range; and were all glad to meet one another. I know I was worried about being the only twenty six year old in the group. After unofficially getting to know one another the trip leaders brought us all together to go over some announcements and do some icebreakers. Unfortunately the airport’s PA system had other ideas. The leaders forged ahead, but I think most of the group only caught most of the words. When it came time for us to do icebreakers I gained new appreciation for their ability to project; I don’t think I even heard a third of the introductions. Still, I’m sure we’ll be introduced several more times before the trip is over.
     Soon we found out that we would be going through yet another security checkpoint, after passing through the gate. The security is much tighter going to Israel than I’ve ever seen. We passed through the checkpoint and started waiting once again, we were on the plane an hour before we were scheduled to take off. I went to fire up True Detective, my planned entertainment for the trip, only to find that I had only put episodes four through eight on my tablet, forgetting the third episode, the next one I needed to watch. With my original plan killed by my carelessness I resorted to the kindle through takeoff, then promptly fell asleep. It’s a testament to my exhaustion that the discomfort of airline seats barely disturbed my sleep.
   In thirty minutes, give or take, I’ll be stepping off the plane into a new county, for the first time in my life. I couldn’t be more excited. 


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