Stories Like This Make It Worth Getting Up In The Morning

By Richard McKusic, Sr. | May 08, 2018

Just received from Amita Jarmon, a friend who was Rabbi here in Rockland before moving to Israel. Her words are precious.
"intense, pregnant moments early Monday AM flying Tel Aviv to NY: My time in the sky always includes an acute awareness of being in God's hands, Life review, and deep gratitude for all the blessings in my life. In the past few years I've chosen to fly into Boston, but this time I had to fly via JFK. Unlike flights to Boston, the NY flights are full of (75-80%) Haredim (Ultra Orthodox Jews). Although in my work as a physical therapist in Jerusalem, I have often treated Haredim and developed open-hearted relationships with them and their family members, on Sunday night I felt alienated and slightly oppressed by their sheer numbers, and the loudness and intensity with which many of them were talking. I switched to this Delta flight the previous night, because Air France was on strike (they are partners), and lost my window seat. I found my seat in a row with my back to the toilets, a Haredi woman on my left, and a man on my right. As I reached to put my pillow and purse on my seat, the man and I smiled at each other. He was clearly Palestinian, head uncovered, dignified, wearing a light colored suit. With a sigh of relief, when I said down I said: “I'm glad you're here!” He said, “I'm glad you're here!” I felt immediate brother-sisterhood with him, someone I could relate to more easily than the mass of Ultra-Orthodox Jews surrounding me. I asked in Arabic “What's your name?” and was able to exchange a few words with him in Arabic, which was unnecessary because he's been living in NJ for 40 years. Jamal is a dentist, married with 5 children. Take off was delayed for an hour due to high winds. We spoke for about half an hour. His family is originally from Yafo, but have been refugees in Gaza since '48. He came for a week hoping to see relatives in Gaza, but was unable to get a permit to enter. He traveled around the West Bank with an old friend, visiting his daughter's in-laws in a village near Nablus, and friends in Ramallah, Jericho, Bethlehem and Jerusalem. We briefly discussed politics. He said he puts hope in the Israeli peace movement. He dozed off and so did I. The plane had not moved. The pilot announced we were taxiing to another location for a take off from a different angle that would be safe with the high winds, but that we should all be prepared for rough air for the first few minutes. And so it was. A roller coaster. My heart raced. I kept breathing and trying to relax into my base – my seat, my legs. Women around me were screaming. I grabbed Jamal's hand. I also grabbed the hand of the woman at my left and she held tight. Eyes closed, I asked her name. Joyce. I held on to both of them. I thought we were turning upside down. He said, “It will be alright.” I reached for God inside me, above me, below me. The cross – the vertical connection to Self and God and the horizontal one to the 2 people at my sides. I thought of my family and of all my dearest friends with whom I have shared so much Love. Tears in my eyes, I felt so much love for the 2 human beings whose hands I held, for the 2 nations they represent, my Jewish family and my Palestinian family, the 2 Peoples I am most connected with and love the most. I want to be a bridge. If I'm going to die, this is the perfect way for me to go. Thank God, we stayed aloft, and after 20, 15, 10, maybe it was only 7 minutes (time stood still in that turbulence) the plane flew steadily forward. I heard some one vomiting in the toilet behind me. I relaxed. The fact that I did not have a window seat, and that the toilets flushing through the night kept me awake, did not matter. During the rest of the trip, I got to know Joyce, a lovely person with a wonderful sense of humor, a speech therapist with mostly African American students in a public school in Long Island. Grateful to be alive, I'm now 27 hours into this next little chapter with my family, which, like the plane ride, is characterized by Love, gratitude, and a bit of turbulence."
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