Keeping My Eyes on the Prize

Posted by mwallach on July 27, 2012 in My Kids |

Dear That’s Life,
There is something about landing in Tel Aviv with a group of 35 Jews who have never been to Israel before and having them welcomed in German because we flew Lufthansa. There is also something to landing in Munich on a stopover to Tel Aviv with a group of 35 Jews who are visiting Israel for the first time and being asked by a German security officer to show her “your papers.” If these had been scenes in a Mel Brooks film or a Monty Python flick, it would have been fine. Instead, of course, they were actual moments in my life.

Having recently returned from leading a Birthright trip, I now have enough writing material for a month. That is not because anything went wrong. On the contrary, the trip was a complete success. The crazier moments were those in which I was involved, having nothing to do with our participants or my co-trip leader. At one point Kasey, a participant, asked me how I have things to write about every week. I reassured her that crazy follows me everywhere. She did not believe me until we got to the airport for our return flight. It was then that she saw a first-hand account of how normal things happen to normal people and not to me.

Our return flight to the United States was scheduled to leave at 5am. Flying with a large group, we needed to arrive extra early and planned on getting to the airport about 4 hours in advance. That meant leaving the hotel at 1am. There would be no sleeping that night until we were seated on the plane. We were completely overtired by the time we got to the airport. It also did not help that I had forgotten my passport at the hotel and we had to turn the bus around and get it. That cost us about a half an hour. Not the end of the world, but it did not help the situation either, as now we were pressed for time.

When we arrived at the airport and were ready to check-in, it was literally the middle of the night. Each of us could have been classified as either giddy, wide awake or asleep on the floor using a suitcase as a pillow. Regardless of the time or one’s general state of mind, Israeli security is not something to mess with. They take it very seriously, and they are right. Standing on line being questioned by an Israeli security officer is not the time to crack jokes. Even I know that. So when I was asked to take my bag and proceed to an additional screening area, I did what I was told.

I was led to a separate area and asked, by a young gentleman wearing a “trainee” tag, to place my bag on the counter. I began to open my bag. “Who told you to open your suitacase?” said the supervisor conducting the interview. Little did I know that its entire contents were already on the screen in front of him. “No problem,” I said, and rezipped it. Pointing to his trainee, he identified a number of things on the screen that were problematic. Then he looked at me.

My bag was particularly heavy and I knew I would have to pay overweight charges. That was not his concern, since it is not a security issue. I could not understand what in my suitcase was such an problem. Our days were packed with touring and we had very little time for shopping. What could I have possibly bought or packed that would be so alarming? Then I remembered.

“Is it my knife?” I asked him, referring to the Swiss Army knife I carry everywhere. “No,” he said. “The knife is actually fine.” He then asked me to open the bag and proceeded to point to a box wrapped in plastic that was near the surface of the suitcase. “It’s that,” he said.

“My rugelach?” I asked him incredulously, semi-annoyed that the cake I had in my suitcase was the reason for this process. “Your problem is the rugelach I have packed in my bag?” He looked at me. “Rugelach? Really?” he asked. “Yes,” I said. “Four kilo worth from Marzipan,” I added, mentioning the name of the Jerusalem bakery famous for these incredible chocolate pastries. “And where did you buy them?” asked the trainee. Gimme a break, I thought. “From Machane Yehudah,” I said, referring to Jerusalem’s open marketplace. “Would you like to see the receipt?” I asked the young trainee who might have been young enough to be my son, dripping with sarcasm. “That won’t be necessary,” he replied. While I thought we were done, we were not. There was one more thing in my bag which the supervisor wanted to see.

“What is that?” he asked, pointing to a small cubed shaped box. “It’s dressing,” I explained, as I rolled my eyes. “Made from honey?” he continued. “Yes,” I said, adding, “and now are we done?” The trainee smiled. “Yes,” he said. “Have a nice flight.” I zipped the bag and headed to check-in.

Arriving at check-in, I struggled to get my bag on the belt, and for good reason. Weighing in at 17 kilo heavier than it was supposed to be, I was informed I must shed at least 7 kilo from the bag and then I would still pay overage charges. I quickly opened the suitcase, again, and removed a number of items, including the rugelach, and handed them over to Kasey, who laughed hysterically at the events taking place at 3am. By hook or by crook, I was bringing these baked goods back with me, even if it meant making someone else’s bag smell like chocolate.

After shedding 10 kilo, my bag was taken but I needed to proceed to a separate counter before receiving my boarding pass. That counter was where I needed to pay for the overage. The agent at the Lufthansa counter informed me that I was being charged $162.00 and asked for a credit card. “You realize you already took the bag,” I said in disbelief. “This point is particularly moot.” He was not impressed and asked me again for my credit card. After paying he handed me a receipt and told me to return to the ticket agent to receive my boarding pass. “Have a nice flight,” he said, as I continued on my way.

Some people would have forfeited the rugelach and there are those who may wonder if I have truly lost it this time. But just think about it this way: when I bring my kids in sleepaway camp these coveted rugelach that they love, in addition to everything else I brought back, all of the packages my husband has sent will simply fade away. Not only is there a method to my madness, but I may actually be a genius.
As Seen in The South Shore Standard July ’12

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