Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Shalom, London 1

I’m not a world traveler. I left Israel three times in the past 18 years to visit my mother and sister in America. That’s it. I have no desire to climb the Himalayas or see the Parthenon. I think the mountains of Switzerland are breathtaking, and I am in awe of the Amazon, but I’ve seen pictures of them all, and that’s enough for me.
However, when our 17 year old daughter was little, we spoke about taking a graduation trip. It seemed so far away. It was one of those “one day” plans. We had no special destination in mind – just something wonderful to celebrate her completion of 12 years of study and hard work (well, hopefully hard work). Suddenly, my husband and I were attending my daughter’s high school graduation, and ta da, this was the summer. Bagruyot (matriculation exams) didn’t feel so horrible when there was a special graduation trip to look forward to.
After a few discussions, it was decided to head for London. And the best part was that we’d meet my dearest Mother (until 120) there. Plans for the “trip of a lifetime” grew into London and Paris, and my sister and brother-in-law were going to fly there too. My husband has never left Israel since we came, almost 18 years ago, so he wasn’t going to leave now, even to go to London.
My sister, a travel agent for 30 years, had planned the most incredible trip, right down to the last detail. Her customers are lucky folks. She’s surely the best in the business.
On Sunday night, we boarded ElAl for London. The plane was packed. Everyone settled down to the movies and TV on their personal screens. None of the movies or TV shows looked interesting to me. I like movies from the 1930s and 40s, preferably musicals.
I read for a while, and then turned on the New York Festival 2009 – Best Commercials Awards. In one of my previous lives as a reporter in New York City, I actually covered the awards, so I felt this selection was perfect for me.
The first commercial, “The World is Awesome”, was itself awe-inspiring. A spot created for The Discovery Channel, the ad begins with two astronauts, floating in space, admiring the earth below, when they break out into song.
Suddenly we are flying all over the world, viewing its wonders, as folks sing: I love the mountains. I love the clear blue skies. I love the great white whale. I love the sites and sounds.
A surfer sings, “I love the oceans.”
A cave explorer says, “I love the dirty things.”
An archaeologist, working on a mummy, shouts, “I love Egyptian kings.”
A weather watcher screams, “I love tornadoes”, as a tornado is actually rushing behind him.
You’ve got the idea. The commercial presented all kinds of people appreciating the magnificent and varied world we live in.
It reminded me of a Berel Wein book that I had read years ago. Rabbi Wein said that he liked to travel, because it helped him appreciate the beauty and majesty of the world that G-d created.
That was just a perfect message for me as I left my beloved Israel to travel to another continent.
I was determined to soak up all the wonder I could find around me. I decided to study London – the shapes of its skyline, the faces of its people, the character of The Brit.
I readied myself for adventure. The fluffy cotton candy clouds around our plane added just the right touch to the start of our trip.
How wondrous is Your world, Hashem. How great are the peoples and the lands You have formed. I am ready to see the marvels around me and study their piece in Your Tapestry of Creation.

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