These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem


Posted on May 23, 2014 by Alanna Kleinman

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lonkleI’m leaving Israel today.

I hurry to catch my plane, held up before security for sentimental reasons. Rushed goodbyes and confusion.

I enter the plane with a crowd full of men in black jackets, fur hats, and peyos. I walk inside to find the aisles crowded full of these men, pushing and shoving, frantically fitting bags overhead. As I make my way to my seat, the flight attendents urge everyone to sit down.

No one is sitting down.

Again, they ask everyone to sit so we can take off.

More movement. More pushing.

After several more announcements and personal urges, the plane quiets for a few minutes and we lift off the ground.

I welcome the distraction of this chaos; otherwise my mind would be full of melancholy thoughts of what I’m leaving behind.

Rude, loud, frantic, pushy. The flight is consumed with these adjectives. The flight attendants look harried and sad by the end. They make comments about how “they don’t listen, they aren’t respectful.” They see a kippah and they cringe, reminded of this image of a plane stuffed full of Jews. They don’t see the nuance in dress, in behavior, in language.

I want to shout at the top of my lungs “I’m a Jew, too.” But they just see me as the sweet, quiet girl who thanks them for their hard work. They offer my whiskey for my kindness.

I am ashamed of the image of Jews that this flight portrays.

I start talking to the couple next to me. From the South, on pilgrimage to Israel, shocked by the men on this flight. I jump at the opportunity to tell them what I’ve been doing for the year. I want them to see me as a religious Jew also, someone invested in learning and ritual.

Then the woman asks me the question I’ve been trying not to answer all year, “What’s the hardest part about living in Jerusalem?”

I stop. Should I tell her the truth? Or something superficial, something that doesn’t create controversy or portray my feelings.

I take a deep breath, ”witnessing the realities of occupation, and admitting that my country is doing this to another people.”

She stares at me with a knowing smile. “We had no idea what was going on here, how many Arabs live in Israel! And how they are treated!”

I shouldn’t have brought it up.

“But we love all the Jews so much, we think y’all are great. We love Israel.”

“I love Israel too, that’s the hardest part. I see the faults yet I can’t stop loving it. That’s a love that isn’t superficial, it’s one that can stand the challenge of years.”

She smiles, “sounds like you’re talking about home.”

I’m glad I brought it up.

In Phoenix, I disappear into a crowd of cowboys.

I miss the men in black hats and black coats.