The “Shabbat flight” was the name given to the El Al’s flight from New York to Tel Aviv on a snowy Thursday during the month of Kislev 5779. It started snowing non-stop in New York and the flight was delayed. When the plane finally departed, they realized that they would not arrive in Israel on time for the Shabbat, and they decided to land in Athens.
Chabad of Athens, directed by Rabbi Mendel Hendel, organized at short notice Shabbat meals for 150 Shabbat observant passengers. When they left the plane, they did not know what to expect. To their surprise, there was a well-organized Shabbat waiting for them, with plentiful meals, a Sefer Torah and a joyful Shabbat atmosphere.
After the reading of the Torah, Rabbi Derly, one of the passengers, got up on the Bimah and said: “Actually, I wasn’t even supposed to be on this plane, I bought my ticket at the last minute. But everything happens by Hashgacha Pratit and there is a reason we came here. I learned that Chabad is in the middle of building a Mikvah in central Athens, so as a token of gratitude for their wonderful hospitality, I suggest that every person participates, each according to his possibilities, and help them finish the Mikvah.”
Thanks to this special help, the Mikvah building was completed. But due to the pandemic, the official opening was delayed and now, the inauguration of the JOVITA COJAB Mikvah was celebrated with joy and excitement in the center of Athens.
Rabbi Yisroel Yosef Hendel, rabbi of the Chabad community in Migdal Haemek and a member of the Beis Din of Rabonei Chabad in Israel, father of Levi Hakohen Hendel z”l to whom the Mikvah is also dedicated, was honored with affixing the Mezuzah.
During the inauguration of the Mikvah, Rabbi Mendel Hendel recounted the remarkable Hashgacha Pratit that accompanied the building of the building from the very beginning: “A few years ago, a group of Chasidim from Williamsburg spent Shabbat with us and found out that there is no Mikvah in central Athens. They decided to address this need and already on Motzae Shabbat, they pledged the first sums for the construction of a Mikvah! They continued to help and keep in touch along the way, making sure that the project comes to completion.”
Rabbi Avraham Meir Schwartz of the Keren Mikvaous, the Rabbinical Center of Europe and the Meromim Foundation assisted in the construction of the Mikvah.