This true story happened many years ago, before the age of
credit cards and modern telecommunications technology that
would have settled this story without the drama. Though I am
now a grandmother, I will never forget the Hand of Hashem
that guided me safely home from my seminary year in Eretz
It was the end of August 1974. There I was, all of 18 years
old, making my way back to Los Angeles. Feeling pretty
miserable over leaving, since Eretz Yisroel had become so
much a part of me, I made my way to the airport. The thought
of not knowing when I would be back was pretty painful. Every
possible second had been squeezed out before the inevitable
departure. Now, responsibility required my presence in L.A.
where I had been hired to teach.
My luggage consisted of two big suitcases, my 12-string
guitar and a couple of duffel bags. Approaching the ticket
counter, I handed my ticket over and awaited instructions.
Boy, was I in for a surprise!
"I regret to inform you but due to the war in Cyprus, all
flights are being rerouted through Europe," the ticket agent
"But my ticket says my flight is a direct one to Los Angeles
with a stopover in New York!" I exclaimed.
"Miss," said the ticket agent imaptiently, "I don't care what
your ticket says. There's a war going on and you will have to
make your connections in Europe."
"Where exactly are you sending me?"
"Zurich. You can change there for your connecting flight.
Just go to the El Al counter once you arrive."
My ticket was a special student's fare and I was a bit
concerned that it wouldn't be honored in Switzerland. I when
I expressed my fear, the agent assured me that there would be
no problem and promptly turned to the next person in line.
Once aboard the plane, the thought that I only had $10 in my
wallet flitted through my mind but it flitted right out with
take-off. Watching the beautiful, beckoning landscape of
Eretz Yisroel fade in the widening distance, my tears flowed
After a while, I settled down and directed my thoughts to the
future. This unplanned detour to Switzerland would just be
something I would share later with my family and students.
And hopefully, with Hashem's help, I would return to my
beloved Eretz Yisroel in the near future -- preferably with
Meanwhile, there was work to be done with a class of girls
who would hang onto my every word (that's what I was dreaming
of, anyway). Imagining the loving embrace of my family and
visualizing official-looking notebooks, I fell asleep.
Several hours later, the plane landed in Zurich. Going to
retrieve my luggage, I was horrified to discover that my
guitar was nowhere to be seen. I filed a complaint and
davened that before my next flight, it would be found.
Then I handed the agent my ticket.
"What's this?" he asked me.
"My ticket," I answered, somewhat surprised that he didn't
know what a ticket looked like.
"I see that it's a ticket. What do you want me to do with
it?" he snapped.
"I have to get to Los Angeles. They told me in Israel that I
would have no problem with it here." This was beginning to
get a little unpleasant.
"This is a student's fare. There's no way you can travel to
Los Angeles with this."
"Well, then, what am I supposed to do?" My eyes started to
fill with tears.
"Try a different airline." And with that helpful piece of
advice, the agent got busy with some paperwork, letting me
know our conversation was over.
Having no choice, I approached every other airline, hoping
someone would let me fly home on my ticket. But the answer
was always the same, "No way."
By now I was thoroughly exhausted, ravenously hungry and
ready to drink warm seltzer, which I never touched even ice
cold. It also struck me that I was in a real pickle. Not
having the slightest clue what to do, I asked someone if
there was a place where one could make collect overseas
calls. I was directed upstairs where an operator sat near
some phone booths. She would help me place the call.
First I went to check if there was any news about my guitar.
There wasn't. This detour to Switzerland was beginning to be
very distressing. Finding my way to the operator, I asked if
a collect call to Los Angeles could be made. The woman
directed me to a booth and told me to pick up the receiver
when the phone rang.
I waited with bated breath for my father to answer the phone
in the office of his export company, located about a ten-
minute walk from our home. Every day, my parents would walk
home for lunch, leaving Louise, my father's loyal and very
efficient secretary, in charge of incoming calls. Though I
tried to wait calmly for the operator to signal me, the
seconds ticked by and the phone remained silent.
"Miss! Miss! Your collect call was not accepted," the
operator finally called.
"Whom did you speak to?" I asked, completely puzzled.
"It was a woman and she said that she did not have the
authority to accept an overseas collect call."
That must have been Louise. Responsibility was her middle
name. Looking at my watch and figuring out the time
difference between Switzerland and Los Angeles, I realized my
parents had probably gone home for lunch. I walked towards
another booth and asked the operator:
"Can you please try another number for me?"
I stood in the phone booth for the anticipated ring and
waited and waited.
"There's no answer, Miss," the operator called to me.
Exiting the booth and feeling very alone and lost, I did what
comes fairly naturally: I cried. And because I was crying, I
did not notice a family of four coming out from the
restaurant that was situated right near the phone booths.
"Young lady," someone said. "Why are you crying?"
Looking up to see if anyone else was crying, I became aware
of a very tall, blond-haired, blue-eyed man looking at me.
Standing next to him was a very tall, blond-haired, blue-eyed
woman with two similar looking children.
"Why are you crying, dear?" the woman asked me kindly.
Having nothing to lose, I explained my situation. A sixth
sense told me not to mention Israel.
"I have been studying abroad and now must get home to Los
Angeles for a job that starts in two days time. My flight was
rerouted and I ended up here in Zurich with only $10. My
ticket is a student's ticket and no airline will honor it. I
tried to call my parents but didn't succeed in reaching them.
I don't know anyone in Switzerland and I'm stuck." Though I
tried not to, I started to cry again.
The woman spoke first. "Come to us! We're very wealthy, you
know. I'll give you new clothing and lovely things. We'd love
to have you as our guest."
This was, you must admit, pretty unbelievable. I was a little
annoyed, though. Who did this tall, blonde lady think I was,
some vagabond? I thought my clothing looked pretty
nice! Besides, they were very obviously not Jewish, and the
last thing I needed was to be kidnapped by people offering me
new clothing and lovely things.
[Final part next week]