The Day FlyerTalk Made History for Israel and Lebanon — Or, At Least, Should Have…
T he Middle East may still currently be in turmoil; but eight years ago today, an arguably historic event occurred on FlyerTalk where at least one major conflict — between Israel and Lebanon — was resolved in fewer than eight minutes…
…but first, let us go back in time even further — Sunday, May 28, 2006, to be exact — when FlyerTalk member Dovster was awakened by what he called a loud exchange of artillery fire, his home located in a kibbutz in Yiron, which is within close proximity of the fenced border Israel shares with Lebanon.
“Sad day for all of us…” posted FlyerTalk member BEYFlyer on Wednesday, July 12, 2006, as the exchange of rockets continued between Israel and Lebanon. “This just sickens me … Don’t know what else to say… Stay safe Dovster and hope your ex doesn’t make a return visit. God help us all. Excuse me while I go prepare for the wrath of the IDF…”
Beirut — where BEYFlyer is based — and Yiron are located within 50 miles of each other. In many places around the world, that is a drive of approximately one hour by car. The route cannot be mapped on Google Maps: not by airplane, not by car — not even by walking…
…but sadly, the Israeli and Lebanese citizens — who became friends via FlyerTalk but never met in person at that point — longed to have a simple meeting which was virtually impossible: “BEYFlyer and I have a long-standing agreement to meet for drinks somewhere along the border as soon as our respective countries make that possible”, lamented Dovster. “Sadly, it seems like today’s events have pushed back that meeting even further.”
Media Attention Increased as Conflict Intensified
As the drama unfolded and the conflict intensified, attention to the growing friendship and concern between BEYFlyer and Dovster increased — and not solely by FlyerTalk members who repeatedly let BEYFlyer and Dovster know that they were in their thoughts, with repeated requests to stay safe. International media eventually called attention to this small but vital component which would have seemingly been lost in a senseless war — this report written by Mike Brunker for NBC News on Friday, July 14, 2006 being but one of many examples:
Since then, the drama has unfolded as a riveting serial, with both Dovster and BEYFlyer describing events on each side of the border almost in real time.
“Israeli warships have just entered Lebanese waters to form a blockade from the sea,” the latter wrote early Thursday. “I guess any chances of this ending anytime soon are out of the question now.
It was riveting as it was happening: first-hand up-to-the-minute reports from both BEYFlyer and Dovster kept readers entranced with the latest updates of the sounds of Katuysha rockets landing, the destruction of roads and bridges, the growing blockades, the fear and uncertainty of how this was going to end…
Cease Fire…But Not the End of the Story
Fast-forward to Wednesday, July 4, 2007, when the aforementioned discussion was permanently closed. Content was posted to it 3,285 times; and as of the time this article was written, there were 574,512 views. With some exceptions, the active fighting between Israel and Lebanon had ceased — and not only were BEYFlyer and Dovster safe; but they had planned to meet on neutral ground to finally break bread and and enjoy a few drinks together in person: south Florida.
The Meeting — Finally
At least 55 people attended that event over the weekend from Friday, October 26, 2007 — which was the first time that BEYFlyer and Dovster finally met in person in the late afternoon in the lobby of the Embassy Suites by Hilton Boca Raton; and the second in which they actually met was captured in the photograph at the top of this article — through Sunday, October 28, 2007.
Shortly after that historic meeting, the two men — sporting baseball caps in the respective official colors of Lebanon and Israel brought by Dovster — walked into the room full of people who awaited them…
…and in addition to Israel and Lebanon, FlyerTalk members came from all over the world from countries such as Germany and the United Kingdom — even from as far away as New Zealand — primarily to witness what they believed was history in the making.
After plenty of mingling and introductions, BEYFlyer and Dovster held an informal ceremony of giving gifts to FlyerTalk members who attended that evening…
…which included a celebration with wine, reminiscent of a Jewish Kiddush.
This was one of the significant moments of which BEYFlyer and Dovster long awaited; and — please pardon the poor grammar — what an incredible moment it was.
Last but not least, the guests of honor received gifts as well before attendees either retired for the evening or repaired to the tranquility of the lighted poolside during that pleasant late October evening.
A Celebration — Over Pork?!?
The next day heralded the actual dinner at a restaurant which was once known as Lucille’s Bad to the Bone BBQ — the company itself still exists but that location is no longer a part of the company — which one would think would be an odd choice for two people whose countries generally adhere to either Kosher or Halal dietary laws.
Even Freddie Junior attended dinner that evening. Does anyone remember Freddie Junior?
A long-standing tradition with large gatherings of FlyerTalk members in South Florida as organized by Dovster was that everyone brought an item to leave on a table as a gift for a fellow attendee…
…and once the items were on the table, Dovster or a volunteer would call out the name of each person to approach the table and choose an item of his or her choice. The evening of Saturday, October 27, 2007 was no exception…
…although a typical evening thunderstorm in Florida literally did rain on that “parade”…
…and despite the tarp and structure covering that part of the outdoor patio where the gift table was located was no match for the torrents pouring down…
…the rain failed to alter the plans for the evening — unless you count moving the table to a drier location as altering plans.
Towards the end of dinner — and after posing with Freddie Junior…
…came another historic and incredible — yet deceptively simple — moment.
The Moment History Was — Or Should Have Been — Made
“I want you to time us,” Dovster said to me, guaranteeing that he and BEYFlyer will sort out the differences between Israel and Lebanon in no more than 15 minutes.
They then sat in two white folding chairs on the makeshift stage and quietly talked in front of everyone who attended as they were finishing dinner.
In fewer than eight minutes — I could be mistaken; but my memory recalls seven minutes and 30 seconds — they shook hands…
…and then they explained to attendees the specific points of the resolution to which they agreed.
“The key point was that Israel and Lebanon would both respect the international border”, said Dovster.
Other parts of the resolution which were agreed upon by both men included the following:
- Lebanon would undertake to disarm Hezbollah and — if requested — Israel would assist it with either weapons or soldiers, whichever Lebanon felt it required.
- Israel — if asked — would help rebuild areas of Southern Lebanon damaged in the war.
- There would be full diplomatic relations. Citizens of each country could visit the other, with the understanding that security checks might be required.
- Lebanon would not get involved in disputes between Israel and Palestine; and Israel would not get involved in how Lebanon treats Palestinians who live in that country.
I found myself wondering why heads of state around the world could not resolve differences between their countries as quickly and as peacefully as BEYFlyer and Dovster did that evening.
By the way, I had to take the photograph you see below…
…as either Dovster found his long-lost twin brother in FlyerTalk member Efrem; or the person who should play Dovster in a movie pertaining to this story has been found.
A Story Still Memorable
This story still attracts attention: this article written by Mikel Bowman on Wednesday, July 9, 2014 for the now-defunct ThreadTripping talks about how “before Twitter, before social media helped bring about the Arab Spring, two FlyerTalkers — one in living in Israel and the other living in Lebanon — provided up-to-the-minute status updates from very near the front lines of the battle between Israel and Hezbollah in 2006.”
He also wrote that “…even more important than the on-the-ground information they provided were the feelings they shared. Their fears for themselves and their families. Their animosity towards the governments and groups behind the artillery. Their good humor in spite of it all.
“And most of all, their expressions of goodwill and support to one another.”
Anyone who says FlyerTalk is just another Internet web site may be missing out on the ultimate power and magic its members bring to each other — actually changing lives in a number of ways both related and not related to travel, miles and points.
I would like to think of that as not just something exclusive to FlyerTalk; but as a trait of this amazing community of frequent fliers as a whole.
BEYFlyer and Dovster clearly demonstrated that day that peace amongst men from different backgrounds, different upbringings and different paradigms can in fact sort out their differences and not only coexist peacefully; but also become good friends. Imagine what the rest of the world could potentially learn from this story — as well as what could possibly be accomplished in the future.
All photographs ©2007 by Brian Cohen.