EL AL in-flight food review

Every time I have flown from the States to Israel, I have had the pleasure of flying EL AL. Yet with this great honor comes the Russian roulette of the in-flight cuisine. It’s a toss up whether you’re going to get a tray of gourmet goodness or if you’re in for a stomach ache all the way through customs.

I got especially lucky on the food front this time around, which I can’t help but think was some kind of good omen for what’s to come.

Here is my official review of the EL AL in-flight food:

FIRST COURSE

The flight attendants began with an amuse-bouche once we were safely over the Atlantic. There was a choice of apple and orange juices, in addition to water (and wine – but who drinks on a transatlantic flight?!). I selected the water, as my throat was parched perhaps from the altitude or from my proclivity for self-induced dehydration. Paired with the water is what I can only describe as an almost bagel chip snack that tastes vaguely like a savory carb in the shape of a ring. The pairing was a knock out, setting my expectations high with what was to come.

SECOND COURSE

Though served at about 3 or 4 PM eastern time, I suppose the next and full meal served would be considered dinner. I had apparently indicted that I wanted a vegetarian meal (as I do when the meat is not disclosed in a transparent manner), so I was thus given more than I could have ever hoped in the vegetable realm.

What first caught my eye was the bialy. It was so soft and took so well to the hummus, also included in the meal. There was a cucumber and carrot salad that I was ambivalent about, yet it delivered in the flavor category through its notes of sweet, almost melon-likeness. The piece de resistance, however, was the hot couscous and veggies. In a word, it was delicious (and everything I didn’t know I wanted from an EL AL in-flight meal). I didn’t think it could get much better than the couscous until I noticed the chocolate mousse. This delicately swirled assemblage of sweetness provided a perfect end to a perfect meal.

THIRD COURSE

Before touching down in Tel Aviv, the last meal was served at what had transformed into 5:30 AM Israel time. This particular meal I knew well, yet EL AL had a few surprises in store for their breakfast.

The meal began with a question: “Blintz or omelet?”

I decided, “Omelet,” without even truly evaluating (I am not a fan of blintzes, EL AL or otherwise).

Thus, I was given a tray and an omelet. The omelet itself was good. Yet what impressed me perhaps more was the mozzarella balls garnished with pesto in a bowl of cherry tomatoes and olives. While I do not eat olives, the mozzarella had me smitten. In addition, there was a warm bagel, which was comforting as a transition into Israeli bagels. There was also a fruit cup, in which I devoured the strawberry and pineapple, sampling the orange, and avoiding the grapefruit. Last on the plate was yogurt and pecan cranberry granola, which were assumed to accompany one another. My first issue was that I found it very difficult to open the small pack of granola. My second grievance was that I do not eat yogurt, which I suppose is not EL AL’s fault, yet it makes me wonder what else could replace the yogurt real estate to make it more enjoyable for me. (Perhaps a blueberry muffin would have sufficed).

FOURTH COURSE

Following breakfast coffee and tea were offered to the passengers. I gladly accepted the former, yet much to my disappointment the coffee – even with brown sugar and non-dairy creamer – nearly ruined what had been a pleasing breakfast. Alas, not all coffee can be a venti mocha with coconut milk and half ice.

All in all, I would like to award this EL AL in-flight food with a 9/10 stars. The olives, grapefruit, yogurt, and coffee are what prevented a perfect 10, yet I am confident that EL AL can improve with feedback like this.

I was very content with the variety and quality of food allotted during my flight.

EL AL, I salute you.

My last visa

The last time I spent more than three months in Israel, I had a visa. I didn’t need the visa because every time I (an American citizen) left Israel before the three month mark, my “visit” reset. I had the visa because it was advised, since I could have hypothetically remained in the country from July to January.

As a precaution, I visited the Israeli consulate in Boston to get my visa. It was there that I had a panic attack, induced by the blank yellow walls and the temporary severing of my iPhone appendage. But I got the visa, certifying my student status and indicating that regardless of how many times my three months reset, I had a return flight.

This time, I also have a visa. The two inserts in my passport clearly highlight the drastic difference in my hair length, but my shorter curls are not the only change to this new visa. This time, I have upgraded by A/2 to ALIYAH.

While it was unclear when/if I would get my passport back after sending it to the Jewish Agency without any identifying paperwork (oops), Fedex came through nearly an hour before I evacuated for Barry.

In the midst of tropical storm mayhem, I stopped, dropped, and opened my first manila to the news that when I land in Israel, I will be Israeli.

I cried.

Opening that envelope was real. In my hands I held the tangible proof of a goal I have had consciously and subconsciously for a long while.

This is my last visa to Israel and my first bureaucratic step in my journey as an Israeli.

(That’s pretty cool).

For Nick: kibbutz, defined

This week my friend Nick came over to say his penultimate goodbye before I depart for the homeland. During his visit he inquired about my future living conditions, as any mildly concerned and invested friend would. I explained to him that I would be living on a kibbutz in the south.

“A what?” Nick responded, followed by the ambitious declaration, “wait! I know how to spell that.”

Nick did not, in fact, know how to spell kibbutz, mistaking its B’s for P’s. He also did not know what a kibbutz was, leading him to Google and Wikipedia.

“This sounds like an Amish cult,” he noted. “Or a dorm.”

“They’re privatized now,” I explained, promising him that I would write him a post with a more involved explanation.

So here is your kibbutz post, Nick:

The first kibbutz was established in 1909 (Degania, my love <3). It was a collective community based in agriculture. After the failed first Aliyah (when the Jews started returning to Israel en mass), the Jewish pioneers reassessed their strategy. Instead of solely relying on financial aid from European benefactors to supplement their venture, pioneers of the second Aliyah took a different approach. They melded socialism with Zionism and endeavored to live self-sufficiently. Here’s where the kibbutz comes in:

These second Aliyah visionaries wanted to do things right (at least as right as they could being socialist Zionists). What ensued were kibbutzim (plural of kibbutz), touting the virtues of communal living and working the land as a vehicle towards Jewish self-determination. So they farmed and ate in dining halls and developed the modern State of Israel not just through their ideology, but also through their labor.

When I move to my kibbutz, I won’t be farming, unless my Garin decides to take up gardening as a pastime. I’ll be living in an apartment with the other members of my Garin, studying Hebrew and cultivating interpersonal connections. When I enlist, I’ll come back to the kibbutz on weekends.

Today, kibbutzim are about community. Hope that clears things up for you, Nick.

Reasons I tell people I’m moving to Iz: a list

  1. The UV in the Mediterranean is better for tanning
  2. Aloe water
  3. Ice cafe
  4. Capitalism is a vehicle to live rather than a goal
  5. The tomatoes
  6. I ran out of Garnier aloe/shea butter lotion
  7. Israel happens to exist at the same time that I exist; I can’t imagine living my life and not taking advantage of that incredible coincidence #yolo
  8. Jewish ancestral homeland (duh)
  9. Better sushi than in New Orleans
  10. Purpose
  11. Georgian food
  12. Shalvata

The levity of packing

I thought packing was going to be difficult. I thought I would want to bring everything so that nothing felt left behind. I thought I wouldn’t part with items because maybe those items constituted a piece of my identity. Maybe the collection of materiality that I have amassed and cultivated over the years has morphed into an aspect of myself much deeper. Yet when I began to mentally assess this seemingly daunting task, all of these fears vanished, replaced by the motivation of levity.

The next two – maybe three or four, or even five – years of my life are going to be imbued with impermanence. I am going to be ungrounded, experiencing postgrad life in a different way than most of my friends. I won’t have an HR department or dreams of a 401k. Instead, I’ll have socialized healthcare and a kibbutz.

After Erez and after Clalit, I don’t know the rest. Yet what I do know is that I want to be light when I embark on my journey of unknowingness.

Being light means not bringing every soft sweater or all six pairs of black jeans with me. I have to chose what goes there, what stays here, and what leaves altogether. Yet this process of self-scrutiny didn’t begin this week or even this month. It began before that, when I realized the reality of my life.

I started culling my closet of things that I don’t like, don’t wear, don’t want, and things that I do want, but I know are impractical for a life of impermanence. My jumpsuits and blazers are in a suitcase, prepared to pause their service until further notice. My Mardi Gras bag has already been acquired by Buffalo Exchange, while friends have selected a black top here and a pair of harem pants there. What remains is a leaner collection that continues to dwindle as I think of something at work or the gym and come home, only to tear it off its hanger.

As I glean my curation of clothes, my life becomes lighter.

The only aspect of this exercise in levity that has been difficult is selecting which books to bring.

While I don’t presently have access to my entire library, I have enough that I’m having trouble deciding which ones to bring. I know that I likely won’t have much time to read, which is why my book choices matter.

I want to bring books that I’ve read before – ones that I already know the endings to. While I may choose to bring an unread book (or a half-unread book, as is the case with most of my current contenders), what I really want is to bring a few books that I know and value.

I am going to bring my Etgar Keret short story books, hoping that once I am yet again immersed in Hebrew I will be inspired to tackle the literature. I’m also going to take The Zionist Ideas, which I’m ashamed to admit I haven’t finished yet. But then there are other books, like Amos Oz’s A Tale of Love and Darkness that I don’t need, but I might want. I might want to open up the memoir one day so that I may reread (and recry) passages like,

“And so I came to the Land long before I actually arrived here.”

I want to bring books that I can flip to any page and reread something incredible. I also want to have books like As If: The Oral History of Clueless with me, in case I suddenly decide that I want to revisit how Paul Rudd does not know how to properly construct a sandwich.

Maybe I’ll give myself a quota on how many Zionist ideology books I bring, leaving behind The Diaries of Theodor Herzl. (Oz and Troy say it all – why bring further attention to my raging and inexplicably nerdy adoration of the founding father?). What I wonder is if I bring a book like Notorious RBG that I still have yet to read in the States (I’m working on it, Aunt Ellen), why would crossing the Atlantic prompt me to exhume it?

I want to bring books with me that I can glance at and smile. I want to look at those books and think, “These are the books that made me.” Maybe the books made me a better writer or a better reader or a better Zionist. But I want books that impacted me and are worth the weight.

Bringing these books might negate all my decluttering, but I doubt that the weight of their words will prevent me in my pursuit of the levity of packing.

In the Beginning

…בראשית, הייתי ברוטשילד בדרך לוונג

In the beginning, I was on Rothschild, on the way to VONG. But it started before that. It started when I couldn’t handle the States and would google things like, “how to join the idf,” inevitably ending up on Garin Tzabar’s website. Or maybe it started even before then, when I mused about enlisting instead of going straight to college. But really, the first active step was while I was strolling down Rothschild, on my way to pick up a chicken curry-esque dish a la 10bis.

I don’t totally remember what prompted it. All I knew was that I needed more information. So during my lunch run, I called Garin Tzabar’s Israeli office. While I was perhaps more confused after that initial phone call, what it started was a process I had perhaps subconsciously dreamt of or thought of for at least a while.

It was while I was on Rothschild with my oversized VONG bag, chicken curry in hand, that it hit me: I was going to join the IDF. There was no doubt in my mind that this was the next logical progression in my life. I wanted to finish school and I wanted to make Aliyah. The IDF seemed to fit into that plan perfectly, and Garin Tzabar seemed like the perfect transition.

But this was just the beginning.