Class of 2022 at SFO and checked in

By Ms. Hunt | March 28, 2022

And so we are off the ground at last, 600 miles per hour at 32,000 feet speeding toward Tel Aviv.

At the meeting point in the International Terminal of SFO, the mood was nervy and excited. Some of us had been traveling during the pandemic, others hadn’t been on a journey this far in two years or more. For some this is their first trip off the continent. But as always —perhaps more than ever this year— embarking on a JCHS Journey feels special…different from a typical vacation or business trip.

The Israel Journey this year included both Class of 2022 and Class of 2023

As the Classes of 2022 and 2023 gathered with so many parents and sibs seeing them off—about a hundred students and staff, and surely more than a hundred family members— the Wolves took up almost the entire space near the desks for United Airlines check in. Divested of our large checked baggage and shepherding only the carryon items, we greeted old friends—it’s been years since there was such an assembly of the Wolfpack. 

Rabbi Kertesz and Ms Krieger convened the group for a few words to launch us officially and then it was time for farewells, the long shuffle through security checkin, and the freedom of foraging in the terminal for snacks and amusements.

At the gate, every student received a shekel from JCHS—not to keep, but as tzedakah, that is, to take to Israel to give as charity to someone in need. By taking on this task, each person became our “shaliach mitzvah,” an emissary on their way to performing a good deed, and thus protected on their journey.

Perhaps we should spare a thought too for the travelers interspersed with our group throughout the plane. There was a lot of energy in Economy. A delay of nearly an hour added a nervous buzz, and high spirits spilled over into wild theorizing in the group chat on WhatsApp. How long would the delay be? Did we need a pilot? Perhaps our resident aviation expert Mo L. could fly us all the way to Israel.

It was a more banal matter that delayed us (loading enough meals onto the plane for dinner). But with a good tailwind we were assured that our arrival would be delayed by a matter of ten minutes, even with a late start.

It took a while to move out of the turbulent air that dogged us in takeoff. Those long awaited meals made it to their destinations at last, and now the plane is quiet, save for a few who are still restless, listening to music, playing chess, watching movies. But we are on our way and the air seems full of possibility.


Somewhere over Greenland

“Is the sun rising or is it setting?” 

2:30 am and we haven’t quite crossed over Greenland, but for the night owls there is a sudden frisson of excitement and several people crowd around a window. The sun is visible over the clouds and there’s a palpable sense of both temporal displacement and wonder.

Moments later we are clustered around a window on the other side of the plane, much to the chagrin of the flight attendants, who would prefer the shades stay lowered and the cabin dark. There is no carefully guiding the circadian rhythms though for our group, who sneak peeks wherever a willing colluder will crack the window shade. 

Glaciers, ice tongues, and the vastness of the Greenland ice sheet can be seen below us. There’s so much to marvel at and we aren’t yet halfway through the flight.


At last we arrive at Ben Gurion Airport to be greeted by Keshet staff with smiles and snacks

“Why is there a hike planned for tomorrow morning?” was the question on more than one mind after a restive night. Day. Afternoon.  What time is it?

Everyone —everyone—has done an incredible job pushing through the exhaustion as we wove our way out of the plane, through the border control maze, passport control, reclaimed baggage, and finally the warehouse-like space for PCR testing.  

We trudge perhaps a bit forlornly through the doors to the bus depot and at last, are greeted by our Keshet tour staff. They are delightfully energized (they didn’t just get off a 15 hour flight!) and offer delicious little cucumber and vegetable sandwiches, sweet pastries and fruit, some free swag and the promise of time to sleep on the bus.  

We are finally here. For some of us we are home.