Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Couple Stranded at Ben Gurion Airport? I Doubt it.

In one of the more dubious stories I've seen on the JPost lately, the following one has to take the cake.

The JPost describes a couple that came to Israel for a visit...implying this was a pre-Aliya pilot trip. Things went south very quickly for them...or so it seems.

Let's read this article:

Miami couple marooned at Ben-Gurion; Wife miscarries in airport; husband claims debt result of mistaken identity.

BY YAAKOV LAPPIN 08/02/2010 02:03

Yow! This sounds like an awful story! How horrible! Can Israel possibly be such a cruel hearted country? Over 160 secondary news outlets picked up this story and ran with it as well...as fact.

After becoming stranded at Ben-Gurion Airport due to an alleged NIS 9,000 debt, an American couple’s journey to Israel has been transformed into a nightmare.

Jack and Suzan Baumann, from Miami, arrived on January 7 for a visit and hoped to soon make aliya, but unforeseen circumstances meant that their immigration process ground to a halt.

Unforeseen circumstances interrupted their visit or their immigration process?

With nowhere to go, the Baumanns were forced to stay in a number of hotels, using up their funds. Last Tuesday, the couple abandoned their plans for aliya, and decided to return to Florida.

Lets review what we know so far. The Baumann's visited Israel. They had some sort of unforeseen circumstances. They were forced to stay in a number of hotels using up their funds. So you would think their unforeseen circumstances meant that wherever they were planning on staying for free, didn't pan out...and they had to go to numerous hotels and pay in cash.

What does this have to do with abandoning their plans for aliya? Obviously, this must have been something rather traumatic; so they decided that their trip is ruined, they want to return to Florida, and they want to cancel their aliya plans.

A nasty surprise awaited them at Ben-Gurion Airport, however, when Jack, 49, discovered that a no-exit ban had been imposed on him by a Haifa court over a debt of NIS 9,000. He was told he could leave only if he paid the sum.

Efforts by Jack to trace the source of the debt failed, and he spent several hours trying to navigate complex bureaucracy on the phone, as his funds dwindled.

Several hours on the phone, and his funds dwindled? Was he using a Satellite phone at 10 dollars a minute? Theywere already in the airport...

He and Suzan were forced to live at the airport for five days, during which his newly pregnant wife suffered a miscarriage in a bathroom.

When the couple asked about medical assistance, a nurse at the airport told them that they would have to pay money they did not have for an ambulance, and, fearing another debt, they remained at Ben-Gurion.

Fearing another debt? They came here without travel insurance? The wife suffers a miscarriage and they decide its better to stay in the airport?

A second medical problem emerged when Jack began suffering from a bad infection of the root canal and sinuses, which began spreading up to his cheekbone and eye, causing severe pain and swelling.

This sounds extremely painful. He deserves our sympathy. I know, he didn't get it treated because medical treatment means...more debt.

“We have nowhere to go,” he said. “Unfortunately, my family is dysfunctional and unable to help me. We are desperate, and we fear the cold streets are our next stop,” Jack said. “I believe this is a case of mistaken or forged identity, because I was not in the country during the year the debt was incurred,” he said. “We have no access to shelter or food, let alone legal assistance, so we cannot track this debt down, and we cannot pay it.”

Who exactly is Jack Baumann? I would think the JPost would have at least used "google" to do a quick spot check on who he is...

Lets see what Google finds? Obviously, the Jack Baumann we're looking for needs to be connected to Israel (he's visited before, yet in his own words, he wasn't here during the year the debt was incurred.)

Jack, a chef by profession, lived in Israel in the past and helped design the menu of well-known Tel Aviv restaurants such as Planet Hollywood in Tel Aviv and Columbus in Herzliya.

Wow - a professional chef as well. Lets add that to our google search:

Google: "Jack Baumann" Israel chef

First result: No, no no! This can't possibly be true! A website dedicated to Jack Baumann, and how he deceived and swindled people out of money -- is involved in fraud, theft and heroin trafficking? It can't possibly be the same Jack...after all, our Jack is a professional chef who worked at Planet Hollywood and wants to make aliya (well, he wanted to before his current trip to Israel).
Low and behold Jack got fired from working in the kitchen at "Mike's Place" a restaurant in Jerusalem where he was working for five weeks at a meager salary. "Mike's Place" fired for incompetence and other workers demanding his removal. Jack got the kitchen job by claiming to have 33 years of kitchen experience, including being executive chef at TGI Fridays and Planet Hollywood.
OK, lets assume that's a case of mistaken identity.

In Israel, Jack Baumann is wanted for an outstanding debt. What would you expect Israel's legal system to do?

This story reads like a con-man's delight. Was the JPost reporter simply fooled by a con-man looking for a quick buck? Is this poor family still living in Ben-Gurion airport? The JPost comment section even had an email address posted "this is not a scam -- send wire transfers to help this family".

I wrote to the email address, offering cash -- but have not received a reply. I even offered to meet them at the airport... No reply.

I assume this far fetched story is possible, but so many details are missing from the JPost report, that its hard to take this seriously.

Of course, that didn't stop the story from getting carried around the world -- giving Israel a bad name.

The ending is the clincher:

The couple have not eaten properly or showered in days, have walked many kilometers in cold rain seeking help, and say that without outside help, their future looks grim.

“We have tried every emergency help available, including the US Embassy, but were told they could not pay the debt, but only the plane ticket home,” he said. “We have never been in a situation like this.”

Every emergency help available? They could have hitch-hiked to Beilinson hospital to help deal with the miscarriage! They could have written up a sign asking for help -- this is Israel; I can't imagine they wouldn't get help from people -- heck, why didn't they call Nefesh B'Nefesh and say that this could help save their chances for aliya.

Too many pieces of this story fail to make much sense. If you know otherwise, I'd love to know...and help this family out. Of course, if they are the swindlers that are posted all over the web, then I don't have much sympathy for them at all -- since the story sounds bogus.

And kudos to Israel's legal system -- for helping those who Jack owes money to.

Going to Israel?
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Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael טובה הארץ מאד מאד


jonathan becker said...

what if this guy is exactly the scoundrel he seems to be, but is legitimately broke and stranded? how then will "israel's legal system" be able to help those he owes money to? and what does his being a scoundrel have to do with his treatment here, and that of his wife? if the authorities are aware of his background, why 5 days of torture, why not just straight to jail or debtors prison (brrrr)? why is u so nazty? youz gotta be pretty nazty to be naztier than ben gurion security and the israeli po-lice. :)

Jacob Da Jew said...

When I saw the article in JPost yesterda, I saw a swindler right there.

Its like those guys who beg for 50 NIS to get home. you give them, and then see them the next month with the same scam.

Yonatan said...

I read this story the other day also - with disbelief. This is not the Israel I know. Yes, you can get a no exit order placed on you. But to say that you couldn't find any help if you needed medical attention or a place to stay just doesn't ring true to me.

The writer of this story has done a huge injustice to our society if the story is not as it is written.

Anonymous said...

While the JPost has a number of great contributing journalists (Caroline Glick, Sarah Honig, etc.) the over-all content is at the level of a high school newspaper, plenty of unprofessional hacks, stories picked up from AP & Reuters verbatim, & leftist traitors like Larry Derfner, Gershon Baskin, & the infamous Naomi Hazan.
Like everywhere else, you can't have any trust in mainstream media.

Akiva said...

There are so many very generous religious organizations that step in and help people here. If they just asked 10 guys with a kippah (or women with a tichel) for help, they would no doubt be directed to at least 5 different ones.

It's not easy asking for help - or perhaps they work under the assumption that the government and system must do everything and don't understand the concept of community assistance.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Akiva: While it may be difficult / embarrassing to ask for help, they did speak to a reporter for their story to be globally broadcast around the world...including details that his wife suffered a miscarriage!

Jonathan: What exactly do you propose that Israel does? The guy has a 9000 NIS debt and is planning on fleeing the country. Should we just let him leave? What sort of person comes on vacation without traveler's/medical insurance?

Didn't anyone see the movie, "Terminal"? You can happily live in an airport :-)

Ben said...

The guy has convictions. See, e.g.,

jonathan becker said...


"The guy has a 9000 NIS debt and is planning on fleeing the country. Should we just let him leave?"

who's "we", kimosabe? :) look, 9000 shek isn't exactly pocket change but it's not the kind of thing that usually gets the israeli legal system involved as a debt collector either-at least not to the point of travel restrictions. once said legal system becomes involved, you have to start weighing the cost to the israeli taxpayer (that's you, buddy). at what point does the system have to step in? i'm curious, but not curious enough to do the research. maybe you're interested in doing it? after all, you're the one all fired up about persecuting/prosecuting this shlemazel.

Leah Goodman said...


This article seems to be a bit more related to reality. Apparently they tried to make aliya and were rejected but decided to come anyway. mistake #1.
Apparently the miscarriage was a bid for sympathy, as it's entirely left out of the second article.

I still think there's more b.s. here.

jonathan becker said...

those travel restrictions are apparently on an american citizen, btw, and not an israel, further complicating matters and raising the potential cost to the israeli taxpayer exponentially. if, as you seem to imply, he's actually not a masken but a smooth operator, he could get lawyered up and potentially cost you and me a lot more than he seems to be wort either way. even if he can't hire a lawyer, the fact that this is an international issue means that ngo's and ambulance chasers would be dying to get involved. or am i way off here?

Anonymous said...

as for your other question, " What sort of person comes on vacation without traveler's/medical insurance?", it's not at all clear this was a "vacation" and anyway, do you need me to paint you a picture? c'mon, you've got a gomorra kop. there are plenty of scenarios where a "visitor" to israel might not have travel insurance, and it's anyway questionable is such insurance would have been helpful. a sudden miscarriage brought on by stress- i mean, what can you do? would such insurance pay for 5 days in a hotel? i'm not sure where you're going with this, really.

btw, full disclosure- i think i might know this guy, by sight anyway. i used to play music at mikes place a lot. i didn't get to know the kitchen staff- i keep kosher b"h- but i'd probably recognize him if i saw him. it's a small kitchen and a small place.

jonathan becker said...

sorry that was me

jonathan becker said...

by the way i saw "terminal". i don't think you could say the tom hanks character was "living happily" at the airport, he just kept an amazingly dogged and positive attitude- which i think was the point of the movie. we can't all be tom hanks. "tom hanks is a gadol. your argument is invalid." ")

Leah Goodman said...

Okay, let's assume they were planning on making aliya.

1. Who just shows up at Ben Gurion assuming that their aliya is approved? Aliya is a process. The fact that he just got on a plane tells me that he's running away from the US.

2. Where were they planning to stay that they were "forced to stay in a number of hotels?" I don't know any olim who were magically given a place to stay upon arrival at the airport. If they received rooms at a merkaz klita, it was arranged many many months in advance.

3. Sorry, not believing the miscarriage. Either it was a chemical pregnancy - i.e. so early that it requires no medical attention, or she would have passed out from blood loss and someone would have called an ambulance and someone would have paid for it - Jews are kind-hearted.

4. If he has all these business contacts in Israel and planned menus and all that, how come nobody was willing to let them stay at their house for a few nights?! I can honestly say that if pretty much any of my former co-workers showed up needing a place to crash for a few nights, I'd find a place, except for the one or two I strongly dislike/distrust.

Shira said...

"...the over-all content is at the level of a high school newspaper, plenty of unprofessional hacks, stories picked up from AP & Reuters verbatim, & leftist traitors like...."

C'mon - leftist traitors don't necessarily write poorly, you just don't like what they write.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

JBecker: Of course Tom Hanks is a gadol! The Artscroll version of Terminal is coming out soon.

"Terminal is a moshol for Olam Hazeh, as we all await our final destination. The question is, how do we, as human beings, passengers, pass or time stranded here at the "Terminal", planet Earth, Olam HaZeh. Do we take out our frustrations on everyone and run to the papers with half baked allegations, or do we accept them and cheerfully make the best of a challenging situation..."

Of course, Tom Hanks didn't suffer the indignity of the Israeli Police...

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Shira wrote: C'mon - leftist traitors don't necessarily write poorly, you just don't like what they write.

I'll have to agree with Shira. I may not agree with anything Noami Chazan writes, but her sentence structure, diction, syntax and vocabulary is well above a 16 in the Gunning Fog Index.

jonathan becker said...

tell me you're joking about an artscroll "terminal". i don't know where you got that quote but it's just saying what i already said. (fishing for a job at artscroll...)

jonathan becker said...

oh, i see. "artscroll" is saying we CAN all be tom hanks. wrong, wrong, wrong. positive thinking is a disease. i guess artscroll won't hire me after all.

Commenter Abbi said...

The photo credit says "Courtesy" on both articles. I'm fascinated that this poor homeless couple happened to have a nice posed portrait of themselves on their persons. Because I always make sure to keep a portrait like that with me at all times. :/

jonathan becker said...

oh, now they're "homeless"? and keeping a "posed portrait on your person" is somehow suspicious? really, what is UP with you people? i certainly didn't imagine myself defending this guy and his shady past and his "second" wife (nice how they slipped that in), but this is just gross. where is the zionism? where are the jewish hearts? it took some DUTCHMAN to help them out, for cring out loud. is no one embarassed by this? i'm not saying paying off the debt in question straight out was necessarily the right thing to do, but since when do we have to be taught moral lessons by the goyim? it's a shanda. the attitude of a lot of people here (including you, jameel, sorry) stinks.

jonathan becker said...

btw, there's only one non-jewish "dutchman" i'll accept moral lessons from. you know who you are, penguin. :)

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

JBecker: While Israelis will be totally amazing with chessed and opening up their homes to strangers in need, etc -- they aren't stupid enough to be FRIARS and give money to convicted swindlers.

The Dutchman probably didn't read this blog before handing over the money.

Abbi: Now, now, the JPost didn't ay there were homeless. I think the term they wished you used was "destitute". Though if they had, they may have been eligible for more emergency compensation from the US embassy. I wrote to them asking for clarification on that matter...

What I find interesting is that they needed a "courtesy" photo -- they had nothing of them on facebook/linkedin/anywhere else?

Batya said...

yoni becker, you played in Mike's Place. Do you know him?

jonathan becker said...

@batya: see below. while this may be a case of mistaken identity (see jpost articles) the picture accompaniying the latest article seems to be a guy i've seen before at mike's place, yes. as i mentioned in another post, because i keep kosher i didn't hang around the kitchen much, and i think he usually wore a hat (didn't know about the shiny pate thing) but i'm pretty sure that's him, yes. but whether that's the guy with the debt and the shady past is apparently another question.

jonathan becker said...

@jameel- "they aren't stupid enough to be FRIARS and give money to convicted swindlers."

don't gimme that nonsense. they do it every year just by paying taxes. i'm not even going to mention the rest of the very long list i have in mind. palestinian authority, anyone?

i see what you're saying. it's true israeli's have a tremendous aversion to frierdom. my 23 years of experience in this country says it means NOTHING. and in a case like this, where the details are so muddy and confused, that dutchman embarassed us all if you ask me.

Leah Goodman said...

their whole story sounds fishy as anything, and I'm sorry if some Dutchman got taken in by it. I'm guessing they managed to take plenty of money off of Israeli passers-by as well, but nobody will mention that.

The back of the hill said...

The Dutchman probably didn't read this blog before handing over the money.

I would recommend reading this blog to all Dutchmen.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

BOTH; Thanks! :-)

Anonymous said...

Before you comment or judge everyone should let the story unfold! As it did on feb 11th jpost.com page 9.
The truth prevailed.
We have recieved help from only one angel that has helped us to get home! All other funds that might come r not in our hands and if so would be donated to others such as victims of identity theft.There are some very cruel people out there.And I still would not wish our experiance on anyone.
G-D bless to you all and please look in the mirror before you judge!
Just so all are aware we gave up our home,car etc....to move here and were mislead by a company not mentioned and the truth will prevail again!

Leah Goodman said...

I'd certainly like to see some truth... how does one give up one's home and car and not have 9000 shekels (US$2200)?

Anonymous said...

This means they came to Israel without first filing for aliyah (chaval, you miss the free flight). Then they applied to NBN's express-aliyah for those already in the country. And that was rejected.

But then why would they be here for a "visit"? And if they were already homeowners then certainly they realized some things take time, - like even express aliyah can take 2 months. But they showed up without anywhere to stay or any funds to stay there?

I think the debt was at those hotels... check their luggage for some robes.....

Kamagra said...

There are some very cruel people out there.And I still would not wish our experiance on anyone.
G-D bless to you all and please look in the mirror before you judge!
Just so all are aware we gave up our home,car etc

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