In my new job as globetrotter-cum-jeweler, I quickly learned something about international airports. As I flew around the world, I developed a rating scale for airports: Points were scored for pleasantness, functionality, and, of course, food.

I discovered that American airports are neither pleasant nor functional. European airports are not pleasant, either, but are fairly functional, so their ratings are slightly higher in my book.

Southeast Asian airports are both so pleasant and functional that you have to allow a few hours before a flight just to walk around and enjoy the experience.

Airport staff in Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Singapore airports are actually eager to help, and will approach any confused-looking traveler with a friendly “May I help you?” These airports are all enormous, and yet, both Hong Kong and Singapore airports consistently win “Best Airport” worldwide awards. Check-in moves quickly, security is almost as fast as in Tel Aviv (sans the European nitpicking of whether my Ziploc bag is over 1L or not).

A few years ago after the September show in Hong Kong, I was standing in a short line, waiting to clear security before my flight back to Israel. I took out my Erev Rosh Hashanah lists, because it was two days to Yom Tov. Most of my cooking was done, my shopping was finished, and my daughter was picking up my son’s new suit from shatnez.

As I stood there, smugly proud of my organizational skills, my phone rang. It was my grandson from Lakewood, who regaled me with his version of “Dip the Apple in the Honey.” I had to cut him short because it was my turn to be screened. After I cleared security, I had this niggling feeling that I’d forgotten something important.

Twice I returned to the X-ray machine to check if I had left anything behind. I hadn’t. I sat down on an empty bench (another plus of Asian airports: lots of convenient seating) to analyze this feeling. I realized it started after hearing my grandson sing “Dip the apple.” Wait, were apples on my shopping list? Had I bought honey? Shehecheyanu fruit? Oh, no!

Before Yom Tov, I love going to the shuk and finding the most glorious fruit. That obviously wasn’t going to happen this year, as time was at a premium. I could get apples in my local fruit store, but what about all the exotic, special Rosh Hashanah fruits I always spent so much time sourcing? I walked through the airport on my way to the Thai Airlines Royal Orchid Lounge, deep in thought, weighing my options.

Right behind the welcome desk of this beautiful lounge was a polished teak buffet, with:

  • a bowl of bright papayas
  • a tray of succulent mangoes
  • a tiered server of Chinese pears (also known as Asian pears)
  • little scattered bowls with jujubes (also known as Chinese dates)
  • other more run-of-the-mill fruits like apples, grapes, bananas.

Now my dilemma. Would it make a tremendous chillul Hashem if I opened my wheelie and stuffed it with fruit? How much was too much? After all, I wasn’t standing at the bar stuffing myself with noodles, or drinking the free booze, so would two mangoes be acceptable?

(Excerpted from Family First, Issue 559)