Tuesday, September 15, 2009


Bottom Line: I have arrived safely and am very excited to be here!

I also want to apologize for bombarding you with a second post in less than a day. I promise this won’t happen too often. I personally don’t have the patience to write all the time. Plus, I know you won’t read it.


I write to you from 40,000 feet in the air. I am eight hours into the flight and wide awake. So let me reflect on the hours leading up to this moment:

(Coincidently, in the time between the colon above and the bullet below, the flight attendant came to my seat with a warm facecloth and said “boker tov.” So, I guess I won’t be going back to sleep now that they’re waking up the passengers and the cabin lights are on. As an aside, I must say I am always disappointed with those face wipes, because it’s steaming hot when you get it, but by the time you open it up to spread across your face it is freezing cold. I guess either way it still feels good!)

  • Getting There:

    Well, you know that I wasn’t ready to go until about a minute before we left the house. I never worry though; I leave that to others in the household. But, as per usual, we made it to the airport with lots of time to spare.

  • Checking In…The Great Adventure:

    I went knowing that I could only have two pieces of luggage. But, I thought I would try to convince them that I am a student flying over for the year and was under the impression that I could have a third piece. (Reason being I am bringing my bike. El Al has a nice policy where they don’t charge extra for a bicycle if it is one of your two pieces. But, this doesn’t work if you have three pieces of luggage.) After many discussions with various personnel at the counter, who spoke to their supervisors in the New York, etc, I was out of luck. It was going to be no clothes OR $230 to check a third piece of luggage. But I would not settle for such nonsense.

    After speaking with an Israeli/El Al security agent, I found a nice Israeli named Avi who was checking in. He only had one suitcase. PERFECT! So I courted him with my eloquent Hebrew and soon enough we had a deal. I’m not sure he understood what was going on at first, but he agreed to help. Plus, he needed a translator for the whole check-in process. A match made in heaven!

    I re-explained the situation to the lady behind the counter, who, like everyone else there, was already familiar with it. I told her that Avi was going to be checking my bike as his second piece of luggage. Following a quick check with security and a look at both of our passports, Avi was my new carrier.

  • My New Friend:

    Avi then met my parents and we all went off together. After some mini introductions we were all well acquainted. Avi is probably about my age, maybe a year older, and he was in America for three weeks with some friends as a gift from the Army. He didn’t quite understand until tears were shed and I started hugging and kissing my parents that they were not joining us for our journey. So, the Segals completed their heartfelt farewells and Avi and I were off. We walked through security successfully and then got some breakfast. I treated Avi. In our last minutes before the flight, we sat together in the gorgeous Newark International terminal, looking out at our El Al 777 on the tarmac, enjoying parfaits!

  • Seating Situation….What Surprises:

    I sat in 50H. For those of you unfamiliar with the 777 seating arrangement, that is the aisle seat on the right side, about 10 rows from the back. I was the first to arrive in my row. Next came a dude who put his laptop in the overhead compartment and then slept in the window seat for the rest of the flight, from take-off to landing. As it got closer to pushback time, I was hoping that we’d have an empty middle seat. And then, of course, my neighbor showed up. An older gentleman, with a longish, scraggly, grey beard, wearing a black hat, and holding various sifrei kodesh. He had a fold-up handcart so I assisted him in stowing that above. Then he moved in.

    On flights to Israel I never know whether to speak Hebrew or English. I have found that starting in Hebrew is a safe bet and then changing over can be easily executed if the circumstance arises. In this case, he started to talk to me in English, with an American accent. He first asked me if I am a doctor (because I am wearing a Holy Name Hospital ER t-shirt). One question led to another and I told him I was from Teaneck; to which he responded, “My brother’s from Bergenfield.” So, I then told him the truth about my residency and it turns out that his brother lives around the corner from us!

    Then we began talking about school. He asked where I go and I told him Columbia. But when he asked what I was studying I told him that I’m getting two degrees, one in Judaics and one in urban studies with a concentration in environmental studies. Here’s the kicker…this guys says, “You don’t happen to be in the program with the Seminary?” I said, “WHAT?! How do you know about that?” To which he replied, “Doesn’t everybody?” …I didn’t think so!

    Turns out, my friend, Herschel, is a pretty worldly man. He is a graduate of Brown University (he actually grew up in Providence, RI), holds three law degrees, a father of six, grandfather of 19, and now a follower of the Chabad movement. Furthermore, he is friends with Jacob (a.k.a. Jack) Nuesner! Herschel splits his time these days between Crown Heights and Kfar Chabad. We enjoyed mini-conversations the rest of the ride to Israel.

  • Frustration Already:

    Soon after the flight began, I was reminded why I often leave Israel (and Teaneck) frustrated. I LOVE JEWS! But, it kills me to see some of them. It just really gets me when the captain turns on the seatbelt sign, the flight crew asks passengers to sit down, specifically the ones “praying in the corner” and such requests are outright ignored. What makes your “spiritual” moment more important than everyone else’s safety? All I can say is, it’s a good thing I am steering clear of Jerusalem for awhile. Why can’t more people be like Herschel?

  • Movies, Sleep, and Rachel Carson:

    I watched two movies – Ringer and Sentential. Slept for about two hours. And, caught up on my biochemistry history through Silent Spring. But as I tried to read, Herschel’s big brimmed hat, which he never removed, kept on getting in the way of my light. It’s ok, I finished the chapter anyway! Just keep in mind though, whenever I was up, as much I love Herschel, I didn’t always appreciate the fragrance of pipe smoke and coffee constantly wafting my way. HEY…such is life!

  • Tolerance:

    As I stood in the open area, near the bathrooms and kitchen, munching on a cookie and sipping lemonana, I met one more character. He was your typically dressed Chasidic man (really, the full garb!), but he seemed awfully cheerful and kept smiling at me. So, we began talking. This conversation was entirely in Hebrew. We discussed what he was doing in America (visiting relatives in Minnesota), why I was going to Israel, what he does for a living (studies/teaches!), and what I study. Our conversation was very cordial and he seemed to respect my future plans. It appeared that Bernstein and I could develop a stronger friendship. But, alas, I wanted to return to my seat to watch a movie.


  • Arrival

    We arrived at Ben Gurion International Airport (Tel Aviv) on time. As we seamlessly touched down, the landing was met with applause…ah, that means we’re in Israel! I wished Herschel a Shana Tova and I was off. I met up with Avi and we walked to baggage claim together. We were both ecstatic to be returning to Israel. Walking through the corridors I received a call from Yisrael. I was officially welcomed to Israel as my ride awaited me on the other side of the gates!

    The deal was not complete yet…Avi informed me that he had purchased one too many bottles of scotch in order to get through customs. So, I helped him out. He took my bike and I took his extra bottle. After waiting a long time for our bags and bike, we made it into Israel! We exchanged items, shook hands, and wished each other well. Who knows if we’ll ever see each other again, but he was a great friend.

(If you know of anyone flying home from Israel with only one bag in June, please tell me.)

I found Yisrael. With great glee we embraced each other. And, with two large yellow suitcases, a pack, a backpack, and a bike, we were off!


I sit here in Kfar Saba now, showered, fed, and enjoying the day at our wonderful relatives’. My computer is charging, I’m hooked up to wireless internet, and I’ve already received calls from Israeli friends wanting to make plans. LIFE IS GOOD!

As mentioned above, I promise to keep the length of posts to a minimum in the future. Please come back for more fun very soon…

All the best,


SHOUTOUT # 7: Elliot Gordon, my good friend as well as Co-Founder & President of Team Homeland Adventure, a true inspiration for fun. I am following in YOUR footsteps as we expand the THA Middle East Borough.

SHOUTOUT # 8: Mara Feinberg – Thanks for all the late night talks and always sticking around as a true friend and mind of reason. Welcome aboard!

SHOUTOUT # 9: Mista... I can always count on you for a good laugh and intelligent discussion. Thanks for always looking out for me at TVAC. Since the last blog didn’t work for any of us, maybe this one will…

SHOUTOUT # 10: Mike Schwartz, my ECO-man! Can’t wait to spend time with you over here. And, thanks for being the tenth follower!

P.S. Check out the homepage picture here: http://www.bibleraps.com/