I am always intrigued with beliefs I am not familiar with – Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism, the LGBT community etc etc.
However – for some inexplicable reason – I have always had an ardent and intriguing interest in Judaism. To be honest and with respect, I just don’t know why.
Maybe it is the fact that I was raised in Jewish areas in Glasgow, Scotland or maybe it is due to the fact that I personally believe that somewhere before the partition, the ancestors of my grandmother were Jewish or the fact that I was involved in an unfortunate fight with a friend of the Jewish faith at school.
Whatever the reason, I always promised myself that I would find the cojones to travel to Israel to understand what the country is all about – the people, the religion, the culture, the food and the history – instead of being brainwashed by the media as well as by ludicrous, hypocritical family members.
On the 2nd of February in 2018, without any fuss, I immediately booked return flights for a week from London Heathrow to Ben Gurion Airport.
As you can imagine, my mommy and daddy were not happy. Not. One. Bit. So me being me, I stood my ground and said I was going no matter what. They tried their best by bribing me and promising me things outside of their kingdom. In addition, they even called family and friends to put sense into me. I said in the most politest way that no police officer, no army officer or even the combined forces of the family could not change my decision because freedom is the right of all sentient beings.
Hence, the journey to Israel began on the 9th of February. I purchased a single train ticket from Glasgow Central for London Euston and to be fair I was very lucky I got it cheap. You might think how Cheap? To be honest, the ticket was as cheap as hell.
As the train rolled past Wembley, I realized that I did not book a place to stay in courtesy of my excitement for Israel. So, I whipped it out – my smartphone – and booked into the first available hostel, which to be fair was a great place as well as having links to places that relate to me.
As I got off the train, I began to look for a TFL employee, who could help me with directions to my location. As he was explaining to me in his quintessential London accent, somehow the strap of my gym bag became loose and the body of the bag fell to the ground and a commuter tripped over it. The verbal abuse I got was expected as it was partially my fault, but – for the sake of your immaculate beauty – look where you are going! As she vented her aggressive fury, I took everything in my stride before apologising and making my way to the hostel with a big smile on my ugly face. Mind you, the smile was not towards her, but was for me to remind myself to stay assertive.
For the next two days, whist I was in London I walked from Westminster to Stratford as well as checking out Wimbledon, chatted to the locals and I also visited my aunt – the less said of the visit, the better.
At last, the 12th of February arrived and the trip was official after I got off the train at Terminal 2 Heathrow Airport.
My departure was at 17:50 and I had plenty of time to relax, but the staff at check-in notified me that I had a pitstop in Brussels for an hour and fifteen minutes. I replied back to them in my flamboyant manner: Ah well, I’m sorted.
Landing in Brussels, I walked to the seating area for my flight and waited for the call to board.
When the time came for me to board, I was stopped by security as I had a 500 ml Irn-Bru bottle in my bag and I had to gulp it down as I do not like to waste the precious liquid of Irn-Bru – just like Whiskey – it is sacred in Bonnie Scotland.
Once the pre-checks were done after the Irn-Bru mishap, I was allowed on the flight and I proceeded to my seat chosen seat, which is at the back of the plane as I feel a tad bit safe.
Approximately 3 minutes later, a young woman sat next to me and made herself comfortable until an orthodox Jewish man – wearing a Kippah with a long greyish beard holding the sacred Torah in his hand – told her something in Hebrew in a harsh, yet simplistic manner. I was slightly confused at this development when she got up and left for a different seat.
As the man sat down in the seat next to the aisle, he turned to look at me and told me in English that women do not sit at the back of the plane and that both genders should be separated at all times. I explained to the religious man that I understand why he did this and I have no qualms about it. We got back to our individual business – reading his Torah and me catching up on 7 episodes of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
As the plane landed in Israel, I thanked the airline staff for a wonderful flight and exited the plane for the immigration point. During my stay in London, I watched several videos on YouTube relating to the route towards the immigration point and I knew what to expect.
As the immigration officer called me forward, I took out my passport and handed it to him. When he looked at the polycarbonate data page as well as several of the stamped pages – Colombia, the USA, Turkey, Bahrain, Jordan and Lebanon – he asked me if this is my first time in Israel to which I answered him back in a respectable, yet assertive manner. He pointed me to the waiting area – with a few other passengers in the area – as he will initiate an investigation and will keep hold of my passport until further notice.
I was in the waiting area from 2.45am until 8.48am – a good 5 hours and 52 mins. Luckily, I had charged my phone on the plane during the flight and there was WIFI available as well for me to read the news (http://www.skynews.com) as well as The New York Times (http://www.nyt.com) and check the Italian news via La Gazzetta dello Sport (http://www.gazzetta.it).
As I was reading an article via The New York Times at 3.53am, an Israeli airport official was – I have to admit here that she was absolutely drop dead gorgeous and exotic – enunciating my name and as I stood up, she walked to me asking me to fill in a form with the details of my dad, grandfather, my email address as well as my home address. I complied and filled in the form before handing it back to her for her investigation to continue.
At 6.19am, believe it or not, two Israeli officials – again two of the most beautiful women I have ever seen – asked me to follow them into a room to be interrogated. I complied and followed them into the room, where they asked me questions regarding my plans, where will I be staying as well as why I came to Israel.
I began to answer the questions in a diligent manner and took out a folder, which not only showed my itinerary, but it also showed of what tours I am booked in for, where I will be going and where I will be residing during my visit.
As one of the officials was reading the documents, the other continued with her questions relating to my interest in Israel and I expressed in a passionate manner that I am a wanderlust and I have this ardent desire to understand different people from different backgrounds and cultures as well as different religions and in order for me to do that I have to visit nations of those backgrounds, cultures and religions.
As I finished my explanation, I requested a plastic cup of water from the second officer and she accepted my request. As I took a sip from the plastic cup, the first officer told me that I can go back out in the waiting area for further developments.
Knackered and completely drained, I took a sip from the plastic cup and got up and picked up my bag with the diminutive energy I had and left the room, but not before the first officer said that it will only be a short while. Outside – in the waiting area – I started to feel sleepy, so I used my gym bag as a cushion and fell asleep to la la land in the hope of good news.
With respect, either the sleep was long or the airport official promising me ‘it will be a short while’ was bang on because at 8.37am, I was awoken by an airport official who – judging by his hair and mannerisms – was Ashkenazi told me that if I wanted to experience what Israel is all about, then I should get up because he has the ticket in his hand for me to take.
As I was holding the visa ticket in my hands, I looked at the airport official and thanked him and his colleagues for this awesome opportunity for me to experience what Israel is all about. Yippee ki-yay!
I really hope it has been informative to you as I enjoyed going down memory lane to share this journey with you – the people of the world.