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Jul 26, 2007

setting stereotypes

I was aware of the reputation Israeli travelers have as being loud, obnoxious, brash, and more. We read often in the papers, after vacation season, about how certain hotels in various cities will not rent rooms to Israelis because of how Israelis take stuff from the rooms, from the towels and robes, to the sinks (literally according to some stories I have read in the past)!

So this was a pleasant surprise.

We just flew on Alitalya Airlines to the USA. While the trip was long and tiring, the flight itself was pretty good. The kids were well behaved (or as well behaved as one could expect from kids locked up in a tin can hurtling through the air).

The stewards and stewardesses were very friendly and helpful all the way through.

We asked one of the stewards for a couple cups of drink. He came back with a bottle and said to just take the whole bottle for the whole family. I have never seen that before. He then did it again two more times during the flight, giving us whole bottles for the whole family when being asked for one cup. They were helpful with our kosher meals, and friendly in general.

That steward told my wife, when she commented how nice it was that he gave us the bottles, that the Jewish kids who fly with them are so well behaved, much more so than other kids, and he loves helping them out...

So, a cynic would now say that there is a difference between a "Jewish" kid and an "Israeli" kid and the difference would clearly be based on religion. I do not think, at least for this discussion, that difference is valid. I do not think he differentiated so, based on the context of the discussion.

The same steward told us a story. He was asking for some advice what he should do in the future in similar situations. The story happened: a couple of religious Jews got on the plane at JFK to Israel via Milan. There was a serious delay of something like 4 hours at JFK due to weather. They were on the plane preparing for takeoff and these Jews asked about their connecting flight in Milan to Israel.

He told them that it is too late and they already missed the connecting flight. The next connecting flight from Milan to Israel would be 10pm. That clearly was not an option for these two,, as that would already be during the shabbat and prohibited for them to fly on it. They asked to be removed from the plane, as they preferred to be stuck in NY for shabbos, rather than be stuck in Milan for shabbos.

He could not do that at that point and said they would have to go to Milan and find something there. He tried to help them with arrangements for shabbos (he said he tried calling some of his Jewish friends to ask for someone in the community who would help them, but his friends were on vacation so he could not reach them).

He did not know what happened to them and what they did. He did want to understand the situation and why they had been stuck, and what he could do if a similar situation arises in the future. We helped him come up with some ideas, such as having prepared the number of a couple different reps from the Jewish community in Milan, such as the Chabad house, a local Rabbi, etc.

This steward is doing an amazing job. he is performing beyond his immediate scope and is trying to do his job well and satisfy his customers, even beyond his immediate responsibility.

But, my point is, again, he says he wanted to help them, and he felt bad for their predicament, because he enjoys serving the Jewish passengers, as they are so much better behaved and nicer than the other passengers.

Some Jews must have made a kiddush hashem with stellar behavior to give this guy such a good impression. Kol Hakavod to whoever they might have been. On the other hand, we cana lso see how our performance and behavior really can give someone a good or bad impression of all jews, whether it is fair or not.


  1. Never judge Judaism based on the attitude of fellow Jews.

  2. good news!

    Sounds like a very giving person.

  3. I'm scheduled to fly to Israel for Sukkos on Alitalia -- I was kind of nervous about it, but you've reassured me. Thanks.

  4. You must have been on the same flight with my mother, daughter and niece.

    They weren't nearly as pleased with the service on Alitalya, though.

  5. You might want to send what you wrote here to Alitalia, to show your appreciation to this steward.

    Let him have some recognition that what he is doing is great.

  6. lazer b - we were going to, but forgot to get the stewards name. We are hoping to have him again (not much chance of it though) on the way back to Israel and will then send the letter....

    soccerdad - I am surprised, it was a very pleasant flight (of course they could have given mroe leg room, but...)

  7. You could tell them the flight and date and let them figure it out. Or is there more than 1?
    Solly G.

  8. I have flown Alitalya before and it was a nice flight. This is a very interesting story. It is something definately to keep in mind. We are supposed to be an Ohr LaGoyim.

  9. Not everyone agrees, that's for sure. I'm glad that Alitalia's improving, however.

  10. On the other hand . . .
    My mom flew Chicago to TA on Alitalia and received terrible service. 1 meal only b/w O'Hare and Milan and a breakfast snack that was actually a salami sandwich. When she asked for a cup of water in the middle of the flight, she was told "the galley is closed." This for a little octogenerian lady flying alone.
    At the same time my family and I flew ElAl from Newark. The flight crew never stopped working/serving/cleaning up for a full 747 during the entire 9.5 hour flight. The galley never closed.

    You see, an airline (for any particular flight) is only as good as the worst member of the crew.


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