I am always amazed when I have moving travel encounters. So often, in the sea of humanity that is the airport, I never actually talk to another person except to say "Excuse me" when I bump into them making my way down the aisle to my seat. This time, however, I had two fascinating interactions with people. They were very different yet so very much the same. Both involved healing, Divinity, and humanity.
The phone rang while we were driving to O'Hare International Airport. The digitized voice calling from computer somewhere wanted me to know that my 3:40 PM flight to Atlanta would now depart at 4:40. This would get me into Atlanta at about 8 pm which made me nervous about making a boarding time of 9:30 for my flight to Tel Aviv. I got to the airport at 1:20 and miraculously, with the help of a great agent, made the 2:05 pm with ten minutes to spare. Thus, I arrived in Atlanta with lots of time on my hands.
After wandering around the airport for a little while and answering some e-mail - which I see to be doing on a perpetual basis - I found an XpressSpa (Terminal C across from Gate C37). My shoulder and neck have been in increasing amounts of pain for the past three months and I decided that the 10 1/2 hour flight to Tel Aviv would be much more pleasant if I could get a good shoulder - neck massage. Tiffany, a young African-American woman, truly had healing hands. In talking about her work, she used language that sounded remarkably Divine - that she was moved to help people and to try to heal their pain. This was not just a job but something approaching a calling. I have to think that if Tiffany were just doing this as a job, I would not have felt nearly as healed as I did. I will still have to do physical therapy when I return but the relief was notable. It was as if I was given a gift.
After some sitting in the massage chair for a while, I headed to the International Concourse and the Delta Sky Club. As I got to the door, a little girl, perhaps five years old, was holding the door open and yelling to her mother with the sweetest Israeli accent to come quickly. She held the door open for me and as I passed through, I said, "Todah Rabbah." She and her mother and father smiled. The agent behind the counter at the entry to the club smiled and asked me what I said to her. I repeated the phrase and explained that it was Hebrew. At that point, the agent, Bernadette, asked me where I was going. In response, she told me about her three day trip to Israel with a famous faith healer. She started witnessing in a way that I had seen when going to homecoming in Persimmon Valley near Camp Ramah Darom. She was sharing her faith not to convert me but to let me know of her love of the Jewish people and her love of God. Her eyes teared up as she told me about her journey, how she was going down the wrong path, how God saved her, and how she wanted to spend a month in Israel as soon as she could. Tears continued to roll down her cheeks as she asked me to pray for her and her family, as she wished me a safe trip, and as she let me go so that I could call family members before departing the country.
It could have been easy to simply sit through the massage, to not talk or respond to Tiffany as she asked questions of faith or to not have looked into the eye of the Sky Club agent to avoid conversation. I could have slept. I could have had more time to call. But I got some healing and, in some way that I don't understand beyond the fact that I was willing to listen, gave some healing. So thank you Tiffany for the healing gift you have been given and that you give and thank you to Bridgette for the opportunity to offer healing and thanks to the little Israeli girl who held the door.
My flight was uneventful. I watched Inglorious Basterds - still trying to figure out how I feel about it - slept through most of another movie, and awoke just in time to see the lights of Tel Aviv. I made it though passport control faster than ever as there was no line at all, got shekalim, got my bags and was out to my friends, Ronnie and Minda Garr who so kindly picked me up. Dropped everything off at the hotel - was greeted like a long lost friend by Shuki the taxi driver and Isam the desk agent, headed off to a working dinner and then visited my friend Tova. As I walked back to the Dan Panorama from Emek Refaim, breathing in the cool Jerusalem night, seeing the walls of the Old City, I thought of the gifts I received and gave and then felt my soul quiet.
More reports from Israel to follow