Embarking on a journey from Montreal to Jerusalem is not just a physical experience but also an emotional and spiritual one, full of encounters that transcend borders and cultures. As I arrived in Israel on March 2nd, my travels unfolded, weaving tales of serendipity and human connection. Every moment I etched a chapter in the chronicles of my spring encounters, from the bustling airplane cabin to the sacred streets of Jerusalem.
During the flight, I sat beside a young Ukrainian man from Odesa. He had spent the past year living and working in Prague, successfully navigating the challenges of obtaining a transfer from his employer and crossing the Russian border into Czechoslovakia. He was en route to visit his cousins in Tel Aviv, and his story unfolded as we shared the airspace.
Adjacent to us was a woman engrossed in a well-worn Bible. Hailing from Switzerland, she eagerly immersed herself in the places mentioned in the Bible, yearning to experience them firsthand. As we conversed, I provided insights into potential areas to explore, and our connection blossomed to the extent that she extended an invitation to visit her in Switzerland. This serendipitous encounter led to a delightful meal with her and her companions in Jerusalem a week later.
On the communal Sherut taxi, designed to accommodate around ten passengers from the airport directly to their respective destinations, I sat next to an American woman accompanied by a baby. She was returning from a wedding in Montreal, and her husband is currently engaged as a teacher at one of the Yeshivas in Jerusalem. Beside her was Orit Elgavi-Hershler, an Israeli neurobiologist educator fresh from her book launch in Tel Aviv. Captivated by her subject matter— the latest methods for addressing autism, schizophrenia, and related topics—we eagerly posed questions, further enriching our shared journey.
The most remarkable moment had yet to transpire as I stepped off the Sherut minibus, standing on the narrow sidewalk with my two oversized suitcases and two hefty carry-ons. To my amazement, a woman halted her car, skillfully parking it on my side of the sidewalk. She promptly emerged from her vehicle and approached me, offering assistance with my luggage.
Such a gesture, I mused, might be unparalleled elsewhere in the world. This heartwarming encounter unfolded just as I reached my new apartment in the sacred city of Jerusalem.
As I reflect on the unexpected moments and sincere acts of kindness that enriched my journey, I am reminded that the true essence of travel lies in the destinations we explore and the people we meet along the way.