Hundreds of Jewish activists missed an opportunity to show their support at a Washington, D.C. rally when they were left stranded at an airport by a “deliberate and malicious walkout” by bus drivers.
About one-third of the 900 travelers from Detroit’s Jewish community who were headed to a pro-Israel rally in the nation’s capital failed to make it to the event when bus drivers hired to transport them from Dulles Airport simply failed to show up.
“What I have heard is that some bus drivers taking passengers from another plane loaded people on their buses, and then the driver walked off the buses and refused to drive them to the march,” Rabbi Mike Moskowitz from Temple Shir Shalom in West Bloomfield told The Detroit News.
Though the rabbi was one of the lucky ones who made it to the rally on the National Mall, a “significant number” of the would-be participants, members of the Jewish Federation of Detroit and the Jewish Community Relations Council, did not, according to David Kurzmann, the senior director of community affairs at the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit.
“We have learned from the bus company that this was caused by a deliberate and malicious walk-off of drivers. Fortunately, many were able to travel to the march, and we are grateful to the drivers of those buses that arrived,” Kurzmann said in a statement on Tuesday.
“While we are deeply dismayed by this disgraceful action, our resolve to proudly stand in solidarity with the people of Israel, to condemn antisemitism and to demand the return of every hostage held by Hamas has never been greater,” he added.
It is outrageous so many Michiganders who flew to DC to attend the March for Israel were denied bus service from the airport because of their support of the Jewish homeland. This is a shameful and unwarranted attack on speech during a critical time. https://t.co/MXVbl49QEf
— Rep. Haley Stevens (@RepHaleyStevens) November 15, 2023
In a virtual press conference on Tuesday, Kurzmann explained that the bus company told his group “they were having trouble” due to drivers who had called in sick.
“They informed us … that they had drivers, who, when they were aware of the assignment today, called in, more than a few, a number of drivers called in sick,” Kurzmann said. The bus company “committed to fulfilling the obligations for our group and we had all expectation that they would they demonstrated a desire and full intention to do, and today they seemed to encounter some challenge.”
State Sen. Jeremy Moss, D-Southfield, who was traveling with one of the groups, told The Detroit News that “his group waited three hours to deplane before loading onto a bus and sat there for about 30 minutes before unloading and getting back on the airplane,” according to the outlet.
They never made it to the rally as they ended up stuck on the plane for the rest of the afternoon, according to Moss who said this prevented them from being part of a “tremendous display of support … for the hostages and a strong rebuke of antisemitism.”
“I’m still awaiting all of the details of why the bus drivers didn’t show up,” he said in a text message on Tuesday.
“How could I not be in D.C. today?” Rabbi Kurzmann said. “This is our opportunity as the Jewish community,” and others, “to really show our support for Israel.”
Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson, House Democratic leader Hakeem Jefferies and Republican Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa were reportedly in attendance at the rally.