Israel - Cultural Differences, Mike McDonald (1972)

I vividly recall, on arriving in Israel for the first time, and with a non Jewish name, being given a sound piece of advice by an elderly Israeli lady: “Mr McDonald, remember, if anybody asks you a question, always reply with another question!”

I was struck immediately by the vast cultural mix that is Israel. Once at an airline staff party, held in the evening in the garden of a bungalow in Tel Aviv, there was entertainment provided. It was given by the son of a well-known Russian cellist, himself a young cellist of some repute. In the breathless and balmy air, under the moon, he played a most moving rendition of a selection of music by Elgar.

One of our check-in staff was an actor from Ireland who had come to Israel via South Africa. Special meal requests were a prominent feature of the booking process. One day, while processing a booking, he asked an elderly lady: “Madam, Kosher or Kedassiah?” She replied, “Oh, no thank you, young man, I can find my own way to the aircraft!”

One day we had a Boeing 707 arrive from Teheran with a passenger stuck in the lavatory. An elderly professor of English had been in a lift in his hotel in Teheran when it had suddenly dropped two floors, a not uncommon occurrence at the time, it seems. The man had received injuries from the fall and on the flight to Tel Aviv had actually collapsed in the aircraft toilet, jamming the door shut.

With commendable urgency, the Israelis immediately mobilized an ambulance and a high lift truck to get him off. He was stuck. Eventually they decided to remove the door of the toilet. Slowly and carefully the man was manoeuvred on to a stretcher and evacuated from the aircraft.

As we were putting him into the ambulance at the aircraft side, his wife said: “Stop everything! I’ve left the duty free on board!” Clearly, everybody has a priority..

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