I arrived in Athens, Greece, two weeks ago on my way from Israel to the island of Crete, a popular tourist destination. The trip involved reviewing the possibility of making a local hotel kosher for the upcoming holiday of Passover. The entire journey was supposed to last no longer than 12 hours, but alas, G‑d has a way of seeing things differently.

Beginning with our return to Athens from Crete, the trip became a harrowing adventure for me and my assistant.

The plane that we were supposed to board never actually arrived, making us take a later flight and missing our connection back home. We ended up landing in Athens at 10 a.m., with a full day ahead of us in a foreign city as we waited for the 1 a.m. flight to Israel.


With no knowledge of the local language, and no where to stay or get kosher food, we reached out to Rabbi Mendel Hendel, the local Chabad-Lubavitch emissary in the city, who immediately offered for us to come to his home.

The rabbi and his wife prepared a grand meal for us, and gave us a run down of the local Jewish sites of interest and where we could pray. The time passed smoothly, and we found ourselves back at the airport no less for wear after our almost 24-hour long detour.

But when I reached into my pocket as I approached the ticket counter, a horrible dread overcame me. My passport was gone.

Hunting for a New Passport

The author lost his passport while on a stopover in Athens, Greece.
The author lost his passport while on a stopover in Athens, Greece.
I sent my assistant on the flight while I assessed the situation. Everyone at the airport offered the grim conclusion that I would not be able to leave Greece without the precious travel document. I saw the problem as Divine Providence, and finally accepted the challenge with a smile and the assurance that all would turn out for the best.

With no one else to turn to, I again called Hendel, who offered to immediately call the Israeli consul in Athens on my behalf. I learned later that the rabbi had a Torah class he was preparing for, and nevertheless dropped everything he was doing to help me in my distress.

The consul agreed to open up her offices the next morning, despite the fact that the building was closed for renovations. She told me later that her quick action was in no small part due to Hendel, whom everybody respected.

"Tonight you are on us," the rabbi told me.

He picked me up from the airport and took me back to his house, where a hot supper – at such a late hour – was waiting for me. The next morning, we went to the synagogue together, then to a shop to take my new passport photos, and from there to the Israeli embassy.

At the embassy, Hendel was received well by all. He could have simply dropped me off, but he insisted on staying to offer whatever assistance was necessary.

I was thankful for his company, which turned out to be invaluable after the consul informed us that I needed a police report stating my passport was lost before I could be issued a new one. Hendel simply smiled and ferried me to the police station.

At the station house, they told us that it would take two weeks before a report could be issued. Hendel would have none of it. They then agreed to speed up the process, but that it would take to the beginning of the following week. I was happy with at least that, but still, Hendel did not give up.

In a very pleasant way, the rabbi asked them to give some kind of note proving that I submitted a complaint. They relented and we headed back to the embassy.

The consul, a bit perturbed that all I had was an unofficial police receipt, granted me an exception and gave me a temporary passport.

"Tell anyone that they should call me if there are any issues," she said.

I was far from calm, knowing my new found "luck" had turned on me more than once already. The rabbi, noticing my uneasiness, offered to take me first to his house and then to the airport.

"Until the evening, you are my guest," he said.

I spent the entire day at the rabbi's residence, where he let me use a room full of holy books so that I could at least learn during my stay. That night, he took me to the airport, where the airline staff had plenty of questions. Hendel provided all the answers, and I boarded my flight.

I am quite sure that were it not for the rabbi, I would still be in Athens. I do not know why G‑d brought this upon me, but one theory I have is that it allowed me to witness the unending devotion that the Hendels have for their fellow Jews. They have an entire community where they teach Judaism and do programs with the youth, and yet they took the time to veer from their local mission to assist a stranded traveler.