This Is The Day I’ve Been Waiting For!

September 17 — Israel was never on my radar this year. Although it was a bucket list country for me it wasn’t on the itinerary. I didn’t know when I’d ever be taking a trip there. A friend of mine was there in May and it looked fantastic. Not at all what you see on the news. When my fellow Roamer posted he was going home for Jewish New Year and invited people to join in the celebration I blocked off my calendar and immediately started making arrangements.

Today is finally the day. While the planning only began in June it feels like a lifetime of waiting. I’ve downloaded the new apps relevant to the city, which I hate doing. I said my final goodbye to my roommate which was worse than I thought and yet somehow managed to keep it together. Then I posted to Facebook about my travels and the concerns flooded in.

I’m feeling safer on my way to Israel than in Belgrade right now. On the walk home last night there were tons of police out. On every corner. Some in riot gear and some outfitted in their regular uniform. Others seemed to be soldiers. The sudden presence of military and police didn’t scare or worry me. I actually felt safer. I didn’t know why they were out nor did I think to ask.

Another Roamer I’m traveling with to Israel had trouble getting a cab. She’s close to city center and traffic was blocked all over. I’m on the outskirts of town and had no idea what was going on. As the Slack channel started to report of possible reasons, the soccer game, the foot race, religious parades we learned of the real reason. There is a pride parade and Serbia’s first openly gay prime minister would be marching. The heavy security was to protect her.

Back in 2010 there was a pride parade and a terrible riot. Over 100 people were injured. Fortunately no one was killed. It looked quite terrifying. For the next three years in Belgrade there would be no pride parade.

The other Roamer was finally able to make it out of city center and stop by to pick me up on the way to the airport. Good thing we allocated enough extra time. We were going to need it all.

I’d read how we had to get to the airport early for extra questioning. Thank goodness we did. After we waited in a line which wrapped around the corner the interrogation began. Going through intense questioning doesn’t bother me. Israel is a country always on high alert. During the High Holidays I imagine their alert only gets more intense.

I happily complied and began to share my life story, work history, and travel history. No one I’ve ever met at the airport understands what I do. At least this lady took the time to look up my website. I had fun explaining to her what I do and how I get clients. Not that she was having fun or even impressed. Then when she was searching through my website she found my book page. She looked up at me and said, “Oh. You wrote the book.” I liked how she phrased it. Yes, I did write the book. Thanks for noticing!

We made it through security and posted out to the other Roamers they should be at the airport early. Not to take chances. When we were boarding the plane at the gate the same woman who questioned me was checking people in. She took my ticket and didn’t even look at my passport. She said, “I already know everything about you.” Hmmm… where will all the information be stored?

The flight was completely full and most of the passengers seem to be Jewish and going home to Israel to celebrate the new year. It was like being on a plane to Vegas. Quite the seen. My Roamer travel buddy was able to change seats and sit next to me after everyone was on board. The flight attendants were serious about herding people to their seats and I felt like they were kind of pushy. Once we got in the air I understood why they had to be.

To say this was a party plane would have been an understatement. People were mingling like it was a bar. Passengers in the aisles. Singing. Yelling back and forth. At one point the attendant yelled out, “This is not a cafe. Take your seats.” Cafe? Most cafes I’m in are much quieter and people are sitting down not mingling. Was she providing me some insight into what cafes will be like in Tel Aviv?

Arriving in Israel was exciting. Going through passport control was a breeze and then there it was. The flag of Israel. I took the photo above and almost began to cry. The Star of David reminds of my dad, David. It’s an unmistakable symbol and one of the most beautiful flags ever. I’ve felt emotional and thinking of my dad since we left Belgrade. He would have loved to be on this trip.

For a moment I thought maybe here is where I can finally let him go. He’ll always be a part of me but sometimes I think I’m holding on too tight. I love him so much and wonder if maybe I never put him to rest. He didn’t want to be buried and we never scattered his ashes. Even though we had a memorial service I didn’t speak. There was never a final moment for me. Maybe it will be here in Israel.

My end of day gratitude:

  1. Taking this trip with my fellow Roamers.
  2. Making it into the country safely.
  3. Having the opportunity to travel to another country not on the itinerary.

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