Let’s begin with a short explanation regarding the meaning of “admor status” at the nation’s international airport.
At Ben-Gurion International Airport, 47 rabbonim enjoy “admor status”, which permits being picked up in a private vehicle from an arriving flight, directly from the plane. The admor does not have to get onto the waiting bus and travel to the entry line with the others. This admor VIP list has been in existence since 2000 and it includes admorim and prominent non-chassidish rabbonim.
The admorim hire the services of the approved Masada Lounge VIP Company that operates in the airport. They are taken from the plane to a VIP lounge where they are inspected by customs, security and registered entering the country. The reverse procedure is true when departing, undergoing security inspection in the VIP lounge and then taken by limo directly to departing flight. Employees of Masada are responsible and certified to act as go-betweens for passengers and customs.
Which Agencies Approved the Admor Status?
The Interior Ministry, Customs Authority, Attorney General, Israel Police, Israel Airport Authority and Ministry of Religious Services were all involved in arranging and approving this special service to accommodate prominent rabbonim.
Who is On the List?
Some of these rabbonim include HaGaon HaRav Aaron Yehuda Leib Shteinman Shlita, the Gerrer Rebbe, Rav Yeshayahu Pinto, Rav Yaakov Effergan, Rav Amnon Yitzchak, as well as the sons of Maran HaGaon HaRav Ovadia Yosef ZT”L.
What Happened to Compel Customs to Make a Change?
It appears that about two weeks ago, Rabbi Yaakov Effergan, known as “The Rentgan” arrived in Ben-Gurion and he was picked up by the VIP service. His gabbai told the agent that the rav only had a carryon bag and there was nothing to declare. The agent then asked the gabbai to give him the bag to permit him having it inspected by customs. It was then that he learned the rav did not wait around, but had already headed home, bypassing the VIP arrival system and leaving before receiving the okay to do so. They phoned the rav and instructed him to return but he would not, explaining he was already ten minutes from his home.
Customs officials probed the incident and decided that Rabbi Effergan travels regularly, at times several times monthly and therefore, he is well acquainted with the procedure for “admorim”.
“If we were dealing with a regular traveler, customs agents would have gone to his home to get him” officials explain in the Maariv report.
As a result of the rabbi’s actions, Customs Authority officials sent a stern letter to Masada Lounge for failing to handle the escort as required. A change in the procedure has already been made and from now on, an admor’s passport will be held by officials until after the customs inspection, thereby preventing the VIP rabbi from leaving prematurely.
Customs officials add they do not suspect the rabbi was avoiding them but nonetheless, they are standing on regulations and are unwilling to permit a reoccurrence of such an incident. Customs officials add they did not phone the rav but someone from the Masada Company. “If customs called the rabbi, believe me he would have turned around and returned as we demanded” the official explains.
Officials responding for Rabbi Effergan call the entire matter “a misunderstanding” which they blame on a new employee. They add that at no time was the rabbi instructed to return for if that were they case, the rabbi’s driver would not have hesitated to comply.
(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)