Thursday, November 30, 2006

Strike Stricken -- expired spies, Mizo Jews, and the Spoonbender

What a hectic Wednesday morning at Tel Aviv airport. The good news is that it was a British Airways Flight to Istanbul, not the one to Tel Aviv, which has been identified with some traces of the deadly Polonium 210 isotopes aboard. (It's the same stuff that poisoned that defiant ex-KGB bloke at a London sushi bar). Even passengers who rode that plane are not at much risk unless they sucked a sweaty arm rest or something. In my foul mood, I could be prone to such erratic behaviour any minute.

After two hours spent grilling my son about the Afghan visas in his passport from last summer, Israeli immigration officers let him loose. Sadly, this is ninety minutes after the General Strike begins. Consequently there is no hope of getting any luggage until this ruckus is settled. He has been handed a sheet with instructions to keep up with the news, and return to the airport with bag checks to claim luggage whenever the dispute is done.

Ah, industrial action. It has slowed the terminal bustle to a crawl in the dark. Overhead lights have been snapped off. I came Wednesday before dawn to meet my younger son’s flight from London, only to watch three separate planeloads of passengers file by me without any sign of him. At half past five in the morning, a scrum of photographers forms around groups of slight-figured Asians wearing kipas and chattering in Hebrew. These new arrivals must be the the Mizo Jews from India’s northeast-- one of the 217 lost tribes funded to migrate to the Holy Land. There are 65 of these passengers, all tired out from the long Bombay flight, some clutching infants, others pushing aged parents in wheelchairs. On their faces is a mixture of confusion, exhaustion and exhilaration.

I cannot read one iota of emotion on the next face: dark glasses obscure an eerily familiar features, and a slim man walks past with erect posture and bared teeth. A ripple goes through the crowd. It is Uri Geller, the spoonbending celebrity. Wanly, I try to vibe him a plea to perform some minor miracle and make my son appear. Doesn’t seem to work very well, though. Next, I learn that my husband’s BA flight has been cancelled. This long saga is trying my patience.

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