Sept 18th at 11am and we’re leaving Austin, TX – all 32 of us which includes dancers, crew and staff. After a 3 hour flight we land at Newark airport outside New York. Our international flight was departing from a different terminal so we found the subtly marked hallway that led to an unimpressive stairway that led to the shuttle bus to terminal C – our home for the next 7 hours. We ate lunch and walked around. We ate dinner and walked around. It is a very big terminal and we saw it all. It seemed wherever we walked there were Ballet Austin dancers wandering the halls in a different pattern from ours. Eventually we joined the BA colony surrounding the battery and computer charging station near our gate. Next we went through a second security checkpoint – special for passengers flying to Tel-Aviv.
At 11pm we departed Newark for the 10+ hour flight to Tel-Aviv. If there was any trepidation about the distance and time that separated us from our destination it was apparently relieved as evident by the sight of so many of the dancers interfacing with the touch screen of movies, television shows and music available at every seat. United has lots of TV and movie options on the screens in the back of the seats. Of course when presented with too many choices I was a bit paralyzed. Finally, I chose a few episodes of “Elementary”. We were served dinner and then breakfast. It has been forever since I had airplane food. It wasn’t bad – or maybe I was excited by the retro aspect of the compartmentalized food. Most of us slept. It was very quiet – and dark.
When we landed I was prepared for drama with customs… Let’s say over prepared. Our group seemed to be the only foreigners on the plane so there was no line. Once the front folks (thank you Cookie, Orlando and Ashley) explained why we were coming to Israel the rest of us got questions like “What airline did you fly on?” No one wanted to look at our luggage. We were greeted by Lital (the logistical genius who made this trip possible) and Isi (Albert’s producer) with a sign with the Ballet Austin logo, a splendid way to arrive anywhere.
We met Samir, our bus driver, and traveled one hour plus to the walled, medieval city of Akko. Our hotel has a crusader era aqueduct running through the lobby leading to a cistern in the courtyard.
We are in Old Akko with a recorded history reaching back 4,000 years. It is a remarkably mixed city with signage in Hebrew , Arabic and a few in English for the tourists.
After check in and a bit of breathing time Samir drove us to Morganfeld’s restaurant to eat with the members of the western Galilee partnership. Albert Ben-Shloosh greeted us at the entrance. It is unbelievable that Albert’s dream of bringing Light / The Holocaust & Humanity Project to Akko is a reality and we are here. The food was delicious! I now know I have never really had hummus. But the most beautiful moment of the evening… was when they brought out a brazier of meat and Albert called over to Bill Sheffield to say that the steak was for him. We knew we were very well taken care of.