This evening, I write from inside Gate C123 at Newark Airport, having just crossed through the security checkpoint at the gate (yes, apparently, flights to Israel have their own security at the gate–this should not really be a surprise).
Our group will begin to board the 777 for Tel Aviv in the next half hour; we’re scheduled to depart at 11:00 p.m. local time. I plan to watch Murder on the Orient Express (which I haven’t seen before) and then sleep. We’re scheduled to arrive at 4:20 p.m. Israel time, so I’m straddling the line between being tired now and trying to make sure I’m tired enough to sleep not too long after we arrive. It’s a precarious dance, to be sure.
We arrived at the airport this morning at 10:30 a.m. for a 2:30 flight to Newark. Early to be sure, but not unreasonably so in modern air travel–especially international travel and especially in a group. I must admit that today has mostly been a daze, a mild fugue state of waiting, killing time, and trying to enjoy every minute of the company I can. Nevertheless, it’s exhausting.
And that has me thinking about how spoiled I am compared to the pilgrims of the past. Those whose faith led them to Jerusalem before the luxuries of air travel, before even the luxury of assuredly-safe travel by land or sea, when pilgrimage meant risking everything to embark on a journey from which there was no guarantee of return. And that makes me feel like an imposter, like a tourist of faith in the worst kind of way.
Despite having been fortunate to have traveled internationally many times in my life, and to have flown with some frequency from a young age, I’m something of a timid flier. On the first leg of this trip, I found myself not quite as white-knuckled as I expected, but never quite comfortable hurtling through the air in a metal can that flies only through the magic of massive engines and Bernoulli’s Principle.
Still, that pales in comparison to the hardships endured by the pilgrims of the past, when the journey itself–and the hardships that inevitably defined it–could contain inherent revelatory power and spiritual realization. For me, the journey is merely the means to an end, something that must be endured but with little meaning (reference above my in-flight activities).
But tomorrow, tomorrow I’ll be in Jerusalem.