“Be calm, be silent, be kind and above all, be tolerant”
I repeat this mantra in my head as the sweaty slow Rabbi pushes past me amongst the cattle to board our vessel. I keep my head down and silently feel smug that I have a 3 seater and sleeping pills to protect me from any feelings of claustrophobia and rage. I feel like a day has passed since the 5 am depart and I’m ready to rest my eyes for the next 5 hours and two minutes.
At the tender age of 15 I travelled to Israel with a youth group in search of my Jewish identity. I have decided to return.
Either my hearing has just reached super power levels or everyone on this flight seems to be unnecessarily loud and totally un self-aware. Personal space is irrelevant, noise pollution a myth and alternative religious views an absurdity.
For the following hour of our delayed flight 80% of the male passengers proceed to pray loudly; so loudly in fact that the air hostess's safety announcement is a mere whispered siren in the background. My head and body ache and begin to fantasise of silence. I message a friend from Finland asking if he can recommend any places of solitude that I can pretend I'll visit on my return as I struggle to keep my sanity. The only break in the prayers comes when the cabin crew reveal that the Cheese & ham Panini will be replaced by a smoked salmon bagel…
After a long exchange with Avis I manage to convince them my name is not Tizra and I did book a car. 90 minutes later I’m flirting with a bi lingual salesman who explains the keypad to unlock the ignition and then scoot off in a Toyota.
Neutral .1415#. First, ignition
The open road offers some solace and I feel a sense of pride with my first challenge conquered. (Driving in a foreign land without a passenger to correct me)
After 45 minutes I hit a dirt track road and squint my eyes for ‘Sea by The Sea’ hotel. A lady honks in frustration at my slow driving, then comes to my aid explaining I’ve driven to the wrong city
Neutral .1415#. First , ignition
I re route and 2 hours later arrive at my second attempt. Again I ask for directions from a girl on a bike who has paper stars stuck to her face. Her young soul glows and in beautiful English she warmly does all she can to assist. I need to stretch so after a brief wander I head back to the car to roam some more
1415, first, ignition, ignition, ignition FUCK… The security lock kicks in; the car rejects my desire to drive.
Now – yes now, I’m getting pissed off.
I’m no nearer to locating this hidden nest and proceed to wander the streets by foot. I enter a building to find what looks like an AA meeting taking place…
A young woman exits and kindly directs me to a road near a shisha bar where she suspects Ill find the hotel.
The night air is warm and it feels good to stretch my legs again. I approach the first two guys I see slumped outside the shisha bar sucking on a pipe.
Before I finish my request for directions we stare at each other in utter amazement.
15 years ago when I was in Israel was with a tour group, one of those who I befriended was none other than David Kay who sat before me, jaw also to the ground. We laughed as I nestled down beside him into the strawberry smoke…