And it feels like home. That’s what kept going through my mind on the El Al flight to Israel. It was rowdy and full, like the Israel I used to know. I settled in, seeing the tefilat haderech (traveler’s prayer) on the screen, realizing I belong.
A few hours into the flight, right after I had fallen asleep, the flight attendant woke me to tell me that the empty middle seat in our row would be filled by an ultra-Orthodox man who needed a new seat because the young mother beside him was singing to her baby, thus violating his prohibition against hearing a woman’s singing voice. In true Israeli fashion, my seatmate argued with two flight attendants and saved our cramped legs from having a third person join us.
We landed in Israel, and within three minutes of touchdown, a rocket siren went off, but we were still on the plane with nowhere to go. We could only pray that the Iron Dome would do its job, and it did.
Arriving in Jerusalem, it didn’t feel like 16 years since my last visit. It felt simultaneously like returning home, and yet like a strange new city. The streets aren’t clogged with honking cars, there aren’t tourists wandering around. Birds seem scarce.
In the span of three hours, we heard from the sister of two hostages about the hope and prayer she carries for her brothers in Gaza and about the pain over her nieces and sister-in-law who were murdered. We heard from a member of Kenesset. We heard from an author. We ate.
All in all, I’ve been awake for nearly 40 hours, so I’ll sleep before tomorrow, a day of witness. The wisdom from today from Osnat Sharabi, sister of hostages, rings in me: “I believe in good. I do acts of kindness with the prayer, the belief that ripples will come into the