Friday, May 02, 2008


A short story for your table, and a question.

The story

We were fortunate to spend Passover in Israel this year. We thought that we’d allowed sufficient time to travel there and arrive before the holiday, leaving on Wednesday afternoon from Philly, transferring in Frankfurt with a comfortable four-hour layover, for a scheduled arrival Thursday afternoon.

The plane in Philly had such severe mechanical trouble, that after 90 minutes at the gate, they decided to move us (and our luggage of course) to another plane.

After the transfer, we taxied out only three hours behind schedule. But then we hit a traffic jam of airplanes that looked like the Baltimore Beltway during a thunderstorm. I.e., the entire runway looked like a giant parking lot. We took off an hour later and so were cutting it a little close, to say the least, for our connection. This became especially worrisome because I personally knew that there were no empty seats available from Frankfurt to Tel Aviv, certainly not enough for the 25 of us on that plane headed to Israel.

We asked the crew to let their colleagues on the ground know of our predicament and help us make the connection. The pilot radioed ahead.

So when we deplaned there, some 25 minutes before the connection, we – all 25 of us – ran as fast as we could through that chaotic airport, going through three full security checkpoints (the full works – X-ray and body scan).

Try to imagine doing this with five young children and 7 carry-on items. We made it to the gate at 4:10 – the 4:15 flight was still on the ground and they were still loading baggage. But they had “closed” the flight.

We were all standing there together, seeing our plane and knowing there were empty seats on it.

They are so high-security there that the agents are beyond another glass door, impossible even to talk to them. I knocked, I called, I pleaded, and the agent finally came to the door to try to shoo us away. Here’s how the conversation went (try to read her part with a German accent):

- “I’m sorry, ve’ve closed the flight.”
“Well, could you please open it for us.”
- “No, I cannot do that, it’s closed, it’s already left.”
“We can see that it’s still there, it’s not even 4:15 yet. You’re still loading baggage! I’m traveling with 5 young childr-”
- “Sir, it is not Lufthansa’s fault that you arrived late. I guess it was your ‘cup of tea’.” This last line she said with a derisive grin, evidently pleased with her clever use of the English language. When I responded with dumbfounded silence, she added, “It is the other airline’s fault and you will have to speak with them.”
“I understand that it’s not your fault, but there are no more flights from Frankfurt and due to the holiday we will be stuck here until Tuesday.”
- “Sir, the flight is closed.”
“I understand that you are not at fault. But I’m asking you to be kind to us and these children...”
- “Sir, ve are not kind, ve are business. Now you will have to speak with your arrival airline.”

She shut the door and that was that.

Do you think we were very thankful to be re-routed via Paris on an Air-France flight that got us into Tel Aviv at midnight and to our destination in northern Israel by 5:30 am?

Do you think we were grateful that our luggage arrived ten minutes before candlelighting Friday afternoon?

Here’s your question:

Remember the famous declaration of Hillel, “What you hate, don’t do to your neighbor, the rest is commentary, now go and study”? Should this apply to “business”, or is it limited to one’s personal life?

You know, the people who are building and defending the Land of Israel are doing a marvelous job. Not perfect, but my hat is repeatedly off to them. It was tremendously uplifting to be there.

Shabbat Shalom

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May 14 - Miami
May 19 – Baltimore
May 20 – New York
June 17 – Chicago
June 18-19 - Los Angeles
June 24-25 – Los Angeles

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