For decades, my husband Abe had wanted to attend a Shabbat program in English at a hotel with speakers who interested him. Years danced by and we never attended such a Shabbat program. Several years ago I saw an advertisement for a mid-week program during Chanukah in southern, sunny Eilat. My husband agreed and we signed up for it.
Up until that point I had only been in Eilat twice in my life. The first time was during my first trip to Israel in 1974 and then in 1977 when I came to learn in yeshiva for a year. The small, sleepy, almost nothing Eilat had turned into a bustling seaport town with a fair share of 5-star hotels, tourist attractions, yeshiva institutions and a growing population.
The hotel that we stayed in overlooked the mall, other hotels and a lagoon. It was a beautiful, relaxing view from our hotel room. I davened on the small, but cozy porch off of our room.
We were not disappointed by the educational program with several rabbis who delivered interesting shiurim. In addition, there were movies with Jewish content, musical entertainment and a magic show aimed primarily for the children. During meals we met some friendly and interesting people. I still dream of the buffets. Since we try to keep to a healthy diet, we did not taste many of the dishes, but even the salad bar was amazing. (I wondered what the hotel did with all of the leftovers.)
We had signed up in advance for the excursion in the glass-bottom boat, and we were looking forward to seeing the colorful fish and coral reefs. Dutifully we descended to the hotel’s lobby where we had been instructed to gather. We waited for the other participants to show up. The organizer said that we would go in several taxis to the waterfront. I don’t know what happened, but at some point a number of the people started walking away from the lobby. No one said anything to us. What did they know that we didn’t?
Finally, the organizer told us that we could walk to the pier, and he pointed his finger to the right. Abe and I started walking on the little boardwalk, and along the way we asked a few people which way to go in order to get to the glass-bottom boat. We walked and we walked. Finally we arrived at the pier to see a boat that had already left the pier. We told the woman who was in charge that we were part of the group that was scheduled to go in a glass-bottom boat. She apologized and pointed to the boat that had already left. She said that she would see what she could do, and we should wait. She called her husband who was sailing the boat, but he said that he wasn’t going to turn around and come back to the pier to pick us up.
Abe and I were not happy campers. We had been looking forward to the excursion. We really had missed the boat! We waited around for a while, not sure what would be gained from it since the boat had already left.
At some point a man came towards the shore in a small motor boat. The woman told us to get into the boat. We put on life vests and sat down. What took place afterwards was like out of a movie. The “captain” revved up the motor and we raced through the waters with the gorgeous backdrop of scenery encircling us. Then we saw a boat sitting in the water, and realized that he was heading towards the glass-bottom boat that we had missed. I felt like we were the good guys heading to capture the bad guys.
He pulled up alongside the tourist boat and told us to go into the other boat. I was a bit apprehensive of the transfer in the bobbing boat to the glass-bottom boat. All eyes were upon us. So much for an unobtrusive entrance.
We went downstairs to view the marine life – such an incredible tapestry! When we went upstairs, there was someone who gave some geographical, economical, and ecological background of the area. We even had a treat of seeing some dolphins jumping around in the calm, blue water.
Eventually the boat headed to the shore, and we all disembarked. We followed some of the people, so that we would go the correct way to our hotel. It was quite straight forward. Walk straight, make a right and then walk straight to the hotel on the right. (We realized that the organizer had pointed right when he should have pointed left.)
After this occurrence I thought about the lesson learned. There may be certain times in your life when you feel that you have missed the boat – you missed out on a certain job that you wanted, you are forty and still single, you realize that you should have studied another profession, etc. But even when there doesn’t seem to be any hope, don’t despair. You may find a job that is a better fit than the one you really hoped to obtain. You continue to attend events for older singles, and someone there touches your heart and soul, and it is mutual. At age sixty you may not be able to choose another profession such as a brain surgeon, but there are other avenues that are open.
So if the ship has already left shore without you, with Hashem’s help, you may still be able to hop aboard.