Israel begins not when the plane lands at Ben Gurion to scattered applause, but when I step into the departure lounge at JFK. Orit, the Israeli agent, interviews me so extensively I feel she has taken a personal interest. I ask about her family. It's my ninth time. I carry just one book --the poems of Yehuda Amichai. Stuffed into the middle seat in the middle row, in the middle of the plane, I am forced to tzimtzum. Shriveled like a grape, beneath the vine of my book. The flight attendants are bikurim. Each of their skins is one of the seven species: Wheat. Barley. Olives. Fig. Dates. Coffee? Tea? A minyon gathers for a time zone mincha in the aisles. Does anyone have a siddur? Like the movie where someone asks for a Valium, all hands reach for purses and carry-ons. Men with white shirts and black hats carry their tallit and teffilin in bags of faded purple velvet, maneuver their large bellies around teenage girls in long sleeved Ts and baseball caps. The frum young woman on my left will be at the Kotel on Shavuot. She has a long list of those in need of prayers. She is still making calls, updating, as the plane taxis. After takeoff, she asks to read what I am writing. Grandpa Sabra is going back to Hertzliya from his grandson's Bar Mitzvah in New Jersey. He shows me photographs. "Mazel Tov" I tell him. All of us are returning home in this steel-winged shtetel, from our exile of twelve months or 2,000 years. I sleep, awaken to a smell of chicken soup and pomegranate blossoms.