(photo credit: )
A planeload of lucky England soccer fans made it from London to Ben-Gurion Airport on Wednesday afternoon, despite the general strike by the Histadrut Labor Federation. They came to attend Saturday evening's Euro 2008 qualifying match against Israel at National Stadium in Ramat Gan.
The strike was officially in force from 9 a.m. until 5:25 p.m., but the union allowed exceptions, at first only for humanitarian reasons. Between 9 a.m. and noon, only those planes that were already in the air when the strike began were allowed to land.
Fortunately for the English fans, their flight landed as planned. "We read about the strike, but luckily we weren't affected. I am really looking forward to the game, England is going to win, sorry," said Anny Condon from London, who landed at 3:40 p.m.
As the fans walked out the departure gate, they chanted a soccer cheer. Their plane was among the few exceptions to the strike.
Passengers arriving during the morning hours were unable to retrieve their luggage, said Boris Boryslavsky, a veteran janitor at the airport. "This is a big inconvenience. People behind this idea don't think about the country," he said.
"This is a big balagan (mess)," said Svetlana, waiting in line for her flight. "I am nervous to travel as is, this last minute disruption just adds to the stress... I am so nervous right now," she said with her voice shaking. "Israeli citizens are not guilty and shouldn't have to pay [for the strike]."
Meir Hoefler, a lawyer from Haifa, was trying to sleep in a chair in the duty free area, next to his wife and daughter. "I am traveling to Washington for a Jewish lawyers and judges' conference," he said. "Instead of flying on a Continental Airlines flight originally scheduled for 10 a.m., I am waiting for a plane scheduled to depart at 3:30. "I don't mind being a little late, but I think it is ridiculous that one union has a key to the country's economy and the ability to create such trouble. It is not right for people to remain without salaries, but the idea of one union that can sabotage an [entire] industry disturbs me," he said.