Hundreds of Metro Detroit Jews stranded at Washington DC airport by absentee bus drivers

By | November 15, 2023

Hundreds of members of Detroit’s Jewish community traveled to Washington, D.C., on Tuesday to march in solidarity with Israel in its war against Hamas in Gaza, but some of them say they found it difficult to participate because of what they called a “malicious march.” » by some bus drivers.

Local members of the Detroit Jewish Federation and the Jewish Community Relations Council traveled to the nation’s capital to focus the national debate on the release of the estimated 240 hostages that Hamas took from Israel on October 7, a said David Kurzmann, senior director of community affairs at the organization. Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit.

But some buses hired to transport “a significant number” of group participants from Dulles International Airport to the march location, Kurzmann said, failed to show up, delaying and in some cases preventing their arrival. at the event.

“We learned from the bus company that this was due to a deliberate and malicious departure of the drivers. Fortunately, many were able to make it to the march and we are grateful to the bus drivers who arrived,” Kurzmann said. in a press release Tuesday.

“While we are deeply appalled by this shameful act, our resolve to stand proudly in solidarity with the people of Israel, condemn anti-Semitism, and demand the return of every hostage held by Hamas has never been greater.”

The Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit declined to identify the name of the bus company or companies it said denied them service.

Kurzmann told a virtual news conference on Tuesday that the bus company was in contact with its team as travelers were stuck on the tarmac after arriving at the airport around 11 a.m.

He said the company told his group Monday night “they were having problems” after some drivers called in sick.

“They informed us … that they had drivers who, when they learned of the mission today, called in a number of drivers sick,” Kurzmann said. The bus company “is committed to fulfilling our group’s obligations and we all expected them to do so. They have demonstrated their desire and full intention to do so, and today they appear to be meeting a challenge”.

Kurzmann did not provide the number of buses ordered by the group, but said that of 900 travelers, about a third were affected. He said he didn’t have the name of the bus company.

Ella Cohen, a 19-year-old from Birmingham, said she was one of the lucky ones who was able to participate in the march.

“Some other groups have been deceived by the bus companies,” Cohen said.

“We had to pack a lot of people onto some buses,” she added. “Some people had to sit on top of each other and stand in the aisle. It was very hectic. I know some bus companies were able to step in at the last minute and help us, and some people also ordered Ubers to participate in the march.”

Tens of thousands of Israel supporters gathered on the National Mall on Tuesday under heavy security, expressing solidarity against Hamas and shouting “never again.” Republican Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa.

State Sen. Jeremy Moss, a Southfield Democrat, traveled to Washington on one of the chartered planes that he said arrived at Dulles Airport around 10:30 a.m. Tuesday. He told The News his group waited three hours to disembark before boarding a bus and sat there for about 30 minutes before unloading and getting back on the plane.

The group sat on the plane all afternoon and never made it to the gathering, Moss said.

Moss said he and hundreds of other Jews in metro Detroit were denied the opportunity to take part in a “tremendous show of support … for the hostages and a strong rebuke of anti-Semitism.”

“I’m still waiting for all the details on why the bus drivers didn’t show up,” Moss said Tuesday afternoon in a text message.

“I have spent my time in the Legislature fighting discrimination when seeking goods or services that are denied based on identity or affiliation,” added Moss, who is openly gay . “There are a lot of questions and we deserve to know the answers. »

Rabbi Mike Moskowitz of Temple Shir Shalom in West Bloomfield attended the march, which he said drew nearly 1,000 people from the Detroit metro area on three chartered flights. But the demonstrators encountered problems with some buses waiting for them on the tarmac, he explained.

“What I heard was that some bus drivers taking passengers from another plane loaded people onto their buses and then the driver got off the buses and refused to take them to the march,” said Moskowitz, who attended the march.

The march took place during the sixth week of the war, sparked by Hamas’ surprise attack on Israel, in which militants killed hundreds of civilians and brought hostages back to Gaza. The resulting Israeli counterattack killed thousands of Palestinian fighters and civilians.

“How could I not be in Washington today?” Kurzmann said. “This is our opportunity as a Jewish community,” along with others, “to really show our support for Israel.”

Palestinian Americans held rallies in Washington and Michigan to call for a ceasefire in the fighting. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said there would be no ceasefire without the return of all the hostages. Instead, starting last Thursday, Israel agreed to daily four-hour humanitarian pauses in the fighting in northern Gaza, according to the White House.

Other protests against the war and occupation distract from the civilian deaths and hostages for which Israel holds Hamas responsible, Kurzmann said.

“We feel very bad for every baby who suffers and is killed, and this is a horrible war against Hamas,” he said. “The fault lies squarely with Hamas.”

Political Editor Chad Livengood contributed.

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