I kept a fairly detailed journal of my trip to Israel in the summer of 2010, and having now been settled as Modern Orthodox for a while, I think it's time to post it on the Internet. I will be posting the original along with some stylistic edits since I wrote it short-hand in black, and I will be posting comments on the original from my current perspective in red.
On the PlaneOkay, it's NOT easy to lay tefillin on an airplane. After "waking up" (I believe the quotes are because I didn't get much sleep. I should've done what Daniella B. did and take some Tylenol PM to knock me right out), I absolutely had to, if only because on El Al, I could do so without fear of bringing the plane down (unlike the tefillin bomber).
I had some interesting conversations on the plane. First there was a brief situation where my blow-up pillow managed to go flying into a Haredi guy, I apologized and was rather flustered, but he was all cool, saying "אין דבר. בסדר" with a big grin. This was at the beginning of the flight.
But the real conversation was later. First, a Haredi guy named "Duvid," with a u, no last name to protect him (even in my hard copy) sitting across from us in the other row works as a plumber in Brooklyn. He says it's a "cash business, no taxes." Has "goy" helpers-he prefers the Mexicans as they are, in his opinion, better workers. Second, a guy named Sam Cohen (name is common enough that I can post it, I think) doing Birthright as well, albeit on a different trip. Sitting next to him and talking with him is what I figure must be a young dati leumi woman (pregnant with her second child, I think 25). I also remember that her name was Or, which I thought and still think is a boy's name, girls name should be Ora, no? Also, how could I have not written down how/to what extent/whether her hair was covered!!!! ;) she was born in Israel, served but then got married to an American and taught at a yeshiva/day school in New York.
Crazy dynamic with this Haredi guy and Sam Cohen and his amazement at Sam's total lack of knowledge about Judaism.
Oh, and weirdly, despite Mr. Ahmadinejad's rhetoric, El Al has NOT wiped Iran off of its virtual map in the video screen.