Flying from Heathrow to Israel is no laughing matter. First, you need to get from Oxford to Heathrow. True, there’s a bus that takes you there, right from Gloucester Green, but what about poor suckers like me who live all the way out in Summertown? We need to take a bus to the bus. First world problems, right? Right. Okay, but I did need to pull two suitcases – one of them is technically a carry-on, but let’s not kid ourselves, the thing has wheels, it’s a suitcase – over the frosty and uneven sidewalks; I needed to pull both of them onto the first bus; I needed to pull them off the bus without running over any small dogs or children; and I needed to then pull them all the way to the central bus station without running over any unsuspecting feet. I’m glad there aren’t any people wandering around under Invisibility Cloaks here, because my suitcases would be going over all their poor little footsies on the way.
Once at the station, I said goodbye to a new-found dear friend (a rare title, not to be extended lightly) for what was probably the third or fourth time. We had said goodbye at least twice the night before but then somehow managed to talk again and see each other for another hug and chat before I left. I think that might be a measure of friendship – not really wanting to say goodbye to someone because you enjoy their company. At least, I suspect that’s one of my internal measures.
The bus itself was nice. There was a toilet, which, for some reason, always makes me feel very excited. I believe that this is purely because of the complete and utter lack of such facilities on any buses in Israel. They simply don’t exist here, even on buses taking you very long ways. Even on new buses. I’m always surprised and slightly shocked at the absolute genius of providing such a thing on a bus – so smart, so simply, so apparently intuitive a solution to many of the bus-rider’s common discomforts (how many times have YOU heard “Mommy, I have to GO!” or “Hrp… Mmmp…Blaaaaawwwrrrggghhh” on a bus before and wished that there had been a toilet available for the child or the nauseated sod, if only to shut them up?).
Am I in a strange, rather different, slightly cynical and nasty mood tonight? Perhaps. But you must forgive me, reader-and-a-half, for I am tired, I haven’t made all the phone calls that I owe my friends, and I have slept very little and traveled quite a lot in the past twenty-four hours.
I confess, however, that I am very spoiled, having lived in Israel most of my life. I’m used to the airport being twenty minutes, not an hour-and-a-half-plus-many-more-minutes-of-slow-and-jolting-traffic-stop-and-start away.
At Heathrow, El Al put all us Jews and other loonies flying to Israel inside a small space where we were kept safe from everyone who might want to attack us (or maybe kept us consolidated to make easy work for a potential attacker? Who knows?). Our gate was closed off, in other words, but extra security that consisted of bored Israeli El Al workers checking our passports again. I bought a bottle of water and watched as a group of Haredi men got up to pray. I wouldn’t have minded as much if they didn’t do it so loudly. I was very tempted to join them, as I was reading a book that had a white cover. I could have stood among them, starkly in contrast, a woman among the men, hair uncovered, cleavage on display, white-rather-than-black book in my hands, reading fairy-tales that are pronounced as such rather than a prayer-book basing itself on a bible that proclaims itself as ultimate truth that cannot and should not be interfered with.
But I didn’t. I wish I’d had the courage to do so. But honestly? I wanted to get home. I really didn’t need the hassle of being arrested and taken away to await the next flight in a secure room at Heathrow Airport.