On every flight to Israel that I’ve ever been on the entire plane breaks out into applause upon landing.
Why is that?
The only other instance that I’ve seen an airplane full of people applaud like this is when the pilot touches us down after a truly hazardous flight full of fear and turbulence. It seems as if we clap out of gratitude for being delivered from danger to safety. When this happens, are we clapping for the pilot? For The Divine? For ourselves and the lives that we still get to live? Maybe all three…
The sounds of our hands earnestly coming together in a brief staccato burst are, in a fashion, a spontaneous prayer by a large group of total strangers who share only a departure point, but ultimately, a destiny together.
Like these bumpy flights that make us catch our breath, when we vigorously clap our hands together upon every arrival in Tel Aviv, are we too, (those who understand the origins of our long Jewish journey), engaging in some sort of primal prayer with our applause?
The answer is, of course, ‘yes’. We Jews have an inherent understanding that our flights to Israel, with every airplane’s arrival at Ben Gurion airport, are a miracle in the truest sense of the word.
We, the passengers, marvel that we are part of this astonishing journey, a story that spans the length of time as we know it.
We, the ones who pray with cheers, are applauding The Pilot who took us through eons of turbulence to deliver us to safety in a land that our ancestors in exile could only dream about through their own echoing prayers.
Those prayers reverberated against infinitely long odds, and against the stone faced stark realities of two Jewish millennia. “Someday,” our ancestors fervently prayed, “please God, let our yearnings for a return to Israel yield fruit for our descendants.”
Hundreds of generations later, we are those descendants.
Baruch Atta Adonai Eloheinu Melech HaOlom, who miraculously gathers God’s people from the corners of space and time to once again be free.
P.S. Our next Temple Emanu-El trip to Israel is June 7th-17th, 2020. Stay tuned!