December 5, 2007
I was on a flight from Tel Aviv to Amsterdam. After most passengers had settled, a group of religious men boarded and took what seemed an unnecessarily long time to settle. Part of the problem was that they were not all seated together. Some found themselves next to ‘ladies they do not know’.
It took some patient diplomacy from the purser to arrange some changes and interchanges. Then of course it took the stewardesses extra time to find the correct recipients of the glatt kosher meals that the religious had ordered.
For the onlooker, it was all rather silly.
Oh we are so ignorant. Passively, of course. It’s absolutely normal and innocent to suffer from that form of ignorance. What’s important is to be aware of it, and to be ready to learn.
I stood to get down my computer. The bearded one in front of me opened a conversation which then went on for perhaps ½ hour. Vancouver-born. Originally secular. A child genius – professor of philosophy of law at 25. Now? Manages off-shore banking, runs a family travel bureau and is secretary to the gentlemen on his left: the rabbi.
We covered anti-semitism, the Arabs, the Left, the importance of Jerusalem, the spiritual pull of the Land of Israel (why haven’t we settled in Idaho, like the Mormons in Utah?), the longevity of members of our family, the greatness of my wife’s ancestral rabbi, David Ben Zimra, from the Spanish town of Zamora, and the overblown rivalry between Ashkenazis and Sephardim (Central European Jews and those originally from Spain).
Now he suggests I chat to the rabbi himself. “He loves communicating with everyone”…..