Australia, August 2014
Just came back from Australia. Departed Israel during a ‘temporary’ truce in the war between Hamas and the Iron Dome; returned to a ‘permanent’ truce. No one knows exactly what that means yet but children are playing in schoolyards, so it can’t be all bad.
If there is an experience more stunning than leaving Israel during wartime and landing anywhere in Australia, I haven’t had it yet. There had been efforts to bomb Ben Gurion airport just days before our departure. Leaving on El Al, I realized I was undertaking what one might call a tightening of certain muscles, even though El Al is now equipped with anti-missile deflectors, or so we are told. Looking around the cabin I can guarantee that I was not the only one doing such exercises.
The route of the flight was weird. It usually goes over one of the charming countries to the east of Israel, but this time we headed right down the Red Sea and over India. Good that India is still talking to us. The path to Bangkok, our first stop, might have headed over Russia but no one wants to tangle with Russia these days, so other choices were made. At that point, I fell asleep, figuring if they don’t know how to get there, hell with it.
If one is a member of MATMID, El Al’s cheery passenger club, one can acquire up-graded seating. We were seated in the forward cabin in two seats right in the middle of the /\-shaped space. If you enjoy being stepped on, becoming part of other people’s conversations and the local authority on whether or not the lavs are occupied, it’s a great place to sit, although without a chair back or a bit of unoccupied floor to use for ones bits and pieces, it has its drawbacks.
Apparently we were sterling passengers because on the way back, we were upgraded twice during the same flight. The woman ahead of me said she refused to have a mother and baby as her seat-mates, so we were shifted to accommodate her mishegass. I never knew one could do that! The second time was best. Lots of leg-room and for the first time in years, I sat by the window. Had to watch my head when I stood up, though.
Anyway, Australia. Absolutely amazing place, so very laid back. No one checks handbags, or cares if you speak Arabic, but don’t try to bring anything into that country which the cute little Customs dogs don’t like—that’s when you’re off to jail instead of heading for sand and sea. And it’s really funny for me to hear Sorry, I didn’t understand your accent. Sometimes it takes two tries for me to understand that sentence!
At this time of year our usual destination, Melbourne, is freezing cold, so we went northward to a small town, usually warmer. This year it was truly awesome, with only the most intrepid surfers out in the ocean; wind to blow a zipped jacket right off; days of rain and temperatures lower than those in the south, with phone calls from relatives and close friends that began Greetings from sunny Melbourne—and it was. Tant pis, I thought, so what. I’ve left both a Middle East war and an over-heated summer behind. I win.