Flying from the West

This note has been prepared to help you arrive in Israel feeling as rested as possible

From the west, flights are usually overnight and long in duration (10 hours from New York) and, admittedly, can be uncomfortable, especially if fussy infants are seated near you.

Having said this, your flight can also be your first introduction to the culture of Israel, even before you take off.

Israeli Jews use their appearance to differentiate themselves from one another. After settling into your seat, see if you can pick out the following:

  1. Ultra-Orthodox Jews (also called “Black Hats” by other Jews), call themselves Haredi, which is Hebrew for “fear” or “anxiety”. The Haredi consider themselves the only, true followers of the Law of Moses. They wear long, black coats, black hats, long, curled side-burns, and beards. A Haredi man will not sit next to a woman other than his own wife or child. If his seat assignment has placed him next to a woman, he will spend a good deal of time trying to swap seats with other passengers. Your plane may actually be delayed from taking off while the Haredi satisfy themselves with where they are willing to sit. Try to spot Haredi who are dressed differently from one another. Each different group follows a different Rabbi and each Rabbi has his own traditions that his disciples follow. This is reflected in the different ways each group dresses (length of coat, size and shape of hat, color of leggings, etc.). Many ultra-orthodox women shave their heads and wear a wig.
  2. Orthodox Jews may be recognized only by the kippa (the round, skull-cap) they wear on their head (usually held on by a hair clip). Their wives cover their hair. The men usually, but not always, wear a beard and usually do not have side curls.
  3. Non-religious Jews usually are dressed like most westerners, and often quite “in your face” to show they are not religious.

Israelis do not follow orders very well. They are fiercely independent. Note how many times the flight attendants ask them to be seated or to turn off electronic devices. This refusal to follow instructions may actually delay your flight taking off. Airlines are used to this behavior and it will not delay your arrival in Israel.

The Ultra-Orthodox men will gather in the back of the plane for prayer at sunset and sunrise. Note how they prepare themselves for this ritual.

One of the most important considerations is your ability to get as much sleep as possible during your overnight flight. This will not be easy as many things will conspire to keep you awake; however, being overly tired upon arriving in Israel will affect your enjoyment of your first few days. Here are some suggestions which should help:

  1. Stay up as late as possible 2-3 nights prior to your flight.
  2. Drink as much water (up to 3 liters) 24 hours before your flight as long flights tend to dehydrate.
  3. Avoid caffeine and alcohol the day before, and during, your flight.
  4. Eat a large meal at lunch before your flight. You will be served a large meal just after take-off which you should try to avoid eating; or, just pick at it if you are hungry. Remember that it might be 9:00PM in New York, but it is 4:00AM in Israel.
  5. Dress comfortably for the flight. Wear comfortable clothes that allow freedom of movement. Take something long sleeved as it tends to get cool/cold on a long flight.
  6. Take off your shoes and make yourself as comfortable as possible right away.
  7. Use ear plugs & an eye mask.
  8. If OTC drugs help put you to sleep, consider using them.
  9. Store anything you are not going to use in the overhead compartment. You’ll be much more comfortable with a minimum of things in your way.
  10. Try your best not to take a nap when you arrive in Israel, unless you are able to take a very short “power nap”. Taking a walk may help you stay awake. It is better to attempt to acclimate yourself to Israel time as quickly as possible.

Our Orientation Meeting will be held as soon as possible after everyone has arrived.

What follows is a reiteration of important flight information from the General Information Note:

1. Pay very close attention when making flight reservations so that you arrive and leave on the correct dates. You should arrive in Israel the afternoon (early afternoon is ideal) of the day the itinerary says we will hold our Orientation Meeting (unless you have made arrangements with us to arrive on a different date). If you are traveling from the western hemisphere, you will fly overnight and arrive the next day. If you schedule an early arrival, we will place you in a hotel (usually in Tel Aviv) and the extra cost will be passed on to you.

2. Return flight (this is where you really need to be careful!): Most return flights to the West leave Tel Aviv late at night or in the early morning hours—usually between 11:45 PM and 5:30 AM the next morning.  Make sure your return flight does not have you leaving the morning of the final day of the itinerary! For instance, if your return flight leaves at 12:15 AM, make sure the date is the morning after our final “farewell” dinner. We don’t want you to find yourself leaving the morning of the final day of your Israel Experience. See the website’s itinerary for exact dates.

See you all very soon…

Chris

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