By COLlive reporter
The stranded angels…
The passengers of an El Al flight traveling to Israel who ended up spending Shabbos in Athens, Greece, have turned a sour experience into an uplifting one with lasting effects.
As reported on COLlive.com, the weary travelers were warmly welcomed by the local Chabad Shluchim Rabbi Mendel and Nechama Hendel with a lavish spread of kosher food and Shabbos meals.
“We had only a few hours to prepare,” Rabbi Hendel told COLlive.com on Sunday. “We were notified at 11 am on Friday. We had to prepare food for 150 people and drive 45 minutes to the hotel – all before Shabbos. With Hashem’s help and the brachos of the Rebbe, we made it.”
Despite the frustration of not being back home in Israel, the group had an inspiring Shabbos, Rabbi Hendel said. “Before Shabbos, the people were so stressed, what would they do, would they have what to eat, and then shabbos came in, and everyone was relaxed,” he said.
“The whole Shabbos was spent in a spirit of achdus – unity: Chasidim, Litvish, Religious Zionists and Modern Orthodox, all different types of Jews who don’t necessarily interact on a regular basis, were all singing together and enjoying Shabbos together in a spirit of unity.”
The visitors took an interest in Jewish life in what was the center of the Greek Empire and were told that Chabad is currently working to build a Mikvah in the center of Athens.
A small building, around the corner from the Chabad center on Aisopou 10, was purchased with the support of Rabbi Avraham Meir Schwartz from the organization “Keren Hamikvaos” in Williamsburg and the Rabbinical Center of Europe. But funds were needed to get started on the Mikvah itself.
During Shachris davening, Rabbi Akiva Katz stood up and called on his fellow visitors to pitch in what they can and support the Mikvah. “It’s a Hashgocha Protis that we are here,” he said. “Maybe that is the reason we were all sent here to spend Shabbos here – so that we can help.”
“One of the Rabbis announced during Davening, that everyone there should pitch in and help us. Everyone was very enthusiastic and said they would love to help and be a part of this great mitzvah,” said Rabbi Hendel.
Rabbi David Derli, head of the Tiferet Tiberias educational institutions in Tevria, Israel, pledged to spearhead a campaign to raise the funds, and other people there followed up with their own pledges – large and small.
Rabbi Hendel was touched. “After Shabbos, many of the guests left their contact information so that we could be in touch. They were very thankful to Chabad that we arranged such a beautiful Shabbos.”
He said that people in the group said that they now plan to attend the inauguration ceremony of the Mikvah when complete. “Our next visit should not be because we are stuck here, but because we traveled here to be a part of the celebration,” one of them said.
Rabbi Hendel said he hopes that the Mikvah will be completed by this summer and encouraged the public to add their support at www.chabad.gr/mikvahcampaign.
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Passengers stranded in Athens, Greece end off a beautiful Shabbos with a lively pre-Chanukah song. “The whole Shabbos was spent in a spirit of achdus – unity: Chasidim, Litvish, kipot srugot, all different types of Jews who don’t interact on a regular basis, were all singing together and enjoying Shabbos together in a spirit of unity.” -Rabbi Mendel Hendel, Chabad Shliach in Athens, Greece.