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Breaking the Bubble: Reports
Joel Nickerson

I don’t want to scare any of our travelers! But let me tell you, my bubble has been burst.

From the moment I got on the first plane to NYC and then NYC to Tel Aviv. I was one of very few people masked. Arriving at Ben Gurion airport, though beautiful and modern, I was taken back to the Ben Gurion of 40 years ago…a balagan - understaffed, pushy and exhausted travelers, machines not working, a start-up nation, top in tech, understaffed and struggling to meet the needs of it’s exploding return to tourism. Luckily I was whisked through with VIP kindness and know-how. Fast forward 9 hours and I watched the frenzy of Thursday evening hustle and bustle of Tel Aviv nightlife, mini skirts and fashion alongside ultra-orthodox hailing cabs and waiting for their buses, soldiers eager to get home for Shabbat. This scene felt familiar. But what felt so unfamiliar? Where were the masks? I arrived at my first coffee shop, first meeting, first bar and dinner out as the lone mask wearer, and let me tell you, my bubble was completely burst. It wasn’t gentle, it wasn’t subtle, it was POP! 

I don’t want to scare any of our travelers! But let me tell you, my bubble has been burst.

From the moment I got on the first plane to NYC and then NYC to Tel Aviv. I was one of very few people masked. Arriving at Ben Gurion airport, though beautiful and modern, I was taken back to the Ben Gurion of 40 years ago…a balagan - understaffed, pushy and exhausted travelers, machines not working, a start-up nation, top in tech, understaffed and struggling to meet the needs of it’s exploding return to tourism. Luckily I was whisked through with VIP kindness and know-how. Fast forward 9 hours and I watched the frenzy of Thursday evening hustle and bustle of Tel Aviv nightlife, mini skirts and fashion alongside ultra-orthodox hailing cabs and waiting for their buses, soldiers eager to get home for Shabbat. This scene felt familiar. But what felt so unfamiliar? Where were the masks? I arrived at my first coffee shop, first meeting, first bar and dinner out as the lone mask wearer, and let me tell you, my bubble was completely burst. It wasn’t gentle, it wasn’t subtle, it was POP! 

“Ketty (my name here!), the Corona is done…really, everyone here is over it!” Now unlike Rabbi Joel, I have done a bit more traveling the past 6 months. I went to visit a friend who lives in Baja, Mexico back in March and was so relieved to see all the hospitality and service workers in masks - from the airport to restaurants in her tiny town, everyone was masked. Here, in Israel, a place much more familiar and comfortable for me, I feel like an alien. My space ship has landed, and my “Corona” bubble burst in a matter of hours. It’s a huge adjustment for me as I have been a dutiful, diligent, mask wearer up until last night!

So how do I really feel, my first Shabbat back here in over 4 years? My face feels naked and exposed; my rational self feels unfamiliar with what feels like risky behavior; and my spiritual self feels exhilarated, excited, and bursting with excitement and gratitude to be able to share this beautiful, complicated country with WBT families.

S’baba - I’m definitely back in Israel and it feels both familiar and completely foreign!

--Cathy Gordon

  • Israel trip
  • israel trip 2022