Our final days in the US were quite quick. We had a wedding to go to in Knoxville on the night before we left, and since Sophie was in the wedding, we had to drive up there the day before. We had a great time at the wedding - since a significant number of our friends from DC and Chattanooga went to the wedding, we were able to say a final goodbye. However, we did have to wake up in Knoxville the morning after the wedding and make the 2 hour drive back to Chattanooga, pack, and get on our plane.
We were looking forward to an easy day of flying, but of course, we were mistaken. Our flights were Chattanooga to DC, DC to Newark, and then Newark to Tel Aviv. Unbeknowst to us, United had decided to cancel the DC to Newark flight we were on, meaning that we would miss the Newark to Tel Aviv flight. This happened a full hour before we left Chattanooga and United could have notified us and instead flown us to Charlotte and then on to Newark, but that would be too logical. Instead, we were caught off-guard and didn't find out that the flight was cancelled until we arrived in DC. At first, the United people told us that we could only fly out on the flight that left the next day, which I was actually pretty happy about, since we could have spent the night in DC and had another night with friends. However, it is quite annoying to change plans so drastically, so we asked the obvious question of whether there was another way for us to get to Tel Aviv, perhaps on a different carrier. We soon discovered that we could take a later flight to Newark, taxi to JFK, and fly out on an El Al flight, albeit 4 hours later than our original flight. What fun!
Of course United would pay for our taxi fare to JFK, right? Well, sort of. They did pay the $85(!) fare to JFK, but they neglected to give us enough money to pay for the tolls and tip, which amounted to about $40 more. You'd think that this thing is common enough that they'd know what the total cost of the far would be, but I digress. When we got to JFK, we were asked a few silly questions about who packed our bags, but the people at El Al weren't joking. I felt like any response that was perceived incorrectly would lead to us not getting on the flight, so I decided to keep my snickering to a minimum. The people at El Al were nice enough, just very serious. There was a bit of discussion between the security people before they came forward and asked us, in an incredulous tone, "why did you get your Israeli visa in San Salvador!?" When we answered that we were living there at the time, their eyes brightened and they welcomed us into the ticketing line. We got our tickets and headed to the gate. Of course, at this point it was around midnight, so the TSA people manning the security line were not in the best of moods, and I guess I can't blame them.
When we actually arrived at the gate, there were a lot of people sitting around, waiting. I couldn't help but notice that the gate attendants were occasionally walking through the seating area checking for unattended bags under seats as well as checking the trash cans for what I can only assume to be bombs. Also, about 45 minutes prior to boarding, a pair of heavily armed Port Authority (I think) men came and stood out front of the gate. Like, with large rifles that I'm used to only seeing in Central America, not the US. Needless to say, this made me wonder what the hell we'd gotten ourselves into. Then there's the rather odd slogan of El Al - "It's not just an airline... it's Israel!" All of this made me a little antsy. Once we got on the plane, though, that anxiety went away. The flight to Tel Aviv was uneventful and comfortable.
We arrived into Tel Aviv at night and were met by one of Sophie's coworkers, a friend who we'd met back in DC a few years prior. Of course our bags hadn't made the trek from Newark to JFK, but El Al assured us that we would receive them the next day. We arrived at our new place in Tel Aviv and promptly went to bed. Our social sponsors were nice enough to stock our fridge with some food, and they also left us with a huge amount of a delicious chicken and rice dish.
We woke the next morning to a great view of the Mediterranean, a view that we'll have for the next 4 years. After months of preparation, anxiety, excitement, and nervousness, we had arrived and settled into our new home in Tel Aviv!