Hijacked on her Honeymoon

Hijacked on her Honeymoon

“Hijacked on her Honeymoon: 37 Hours of Horror brought Her Back to her Creator.”

This is the title that appears on this week’s cover of Family First magazine. And the actual feature article delivers as much “horror” as the title promises.

The article tells the real-life story of American Jewish newlyweds Suzie and Richard Herzberg whose plane home from their dreamy honeymoon in Greece was hijacked by Lebanese terrorists. During her 37 hours on the plane, Suzie experienced severe hunger, thirst, physical pain, as well as the horrific sounds of an American Navy SEAL being tortured to death and the unceasing fear that as a Jew, she would be the next in line.

But at the same time, Herzberg credits the most traumatic experience of her life with bringing her back to Judaism. She explains:

“I grew up in a religious home, but I decided to test the waters in college, and I had been living a secular lifestyle. But in those first minutes sitting in that seat on that hijacked plane, it was suddenly crystal clear to me: God runs the world. There was an intensely heightened awareness of His presence right there beside me.”

“Then I started to cry. I regretted all the lost time, the lost opportunities for living my life the way it was meant to be lived. I felt sorry that my parents would never know that I realized the mistakes I had made. I was overcome with the sense that Hashem must have sent me messages before, less severe ones, so that I’d open my eyes. But I had ignored them.”

“Then I did teshuva. A calmness settled over me and I was really okay with the thought of dying.”…

“The entire time on the plane…my only thoughts were on what’s important in life. This is what Yom Kippur is supposed to be like. It’s upsetting to me that even on Yom Kippur I’m unable to reproduce the feelings of closeness to God and the clarity that I had on that plane.”

So strange, right? That for her whole life, Suzie Herzberg had been showered with such good fortune. She had been blessed with an abundance of food and clothing and a loving family and a college education and a husband she loved. And despite all these blessings, she hadn’t felt God in her life. And then she was living in terror on a hijacked plane, but instead of feeling like Hashem had abandoned her, she suddenly felt His presence more strongly than she ever had in her life.

Now read this account by Israeli newly-religious singer Alma Zohar, which appears in this month’s issue of Hallel magazine.

Zohar recalls, “Births and deaths bring us back to the most basic questions about life. When my mother died when I was 20 I had a lot of anger in me. She was an amazing woman, and died from an especially cruel disease. And in the end she died when we came to the hospital for a simple procedure. Afterwards, I left the hospital. I closed my eyes, and at that same moment a terrible curse came out of me towards God. I didn’t understand how and why this was happening to me and I took everything out on the Master of the World.”

“And actually at that moment I believed in God like I had never believed before. It was a powerful moment, because in the end there was great acceptance and forgiveness.”

It’s the same story, in a way. Hashem sends a terrible test, and for the first time in her life a person feels that Hashem is there with them.

And I’ve experienced what Suzie and Zohar have as well. I’ve been experiencing it this whole year as my neighborhood struggles with the ongoing pedophile crisis. I find out that yet another trusted neighbor was involved in the pedophile ring, and to be honest I often feel afraid to walk down my own block. But at the same time, I feel so much closer to Hashem than I did before. Because I need Hashem and His protection so much more than I ever did before. So much more than when I thought I was living in an idyllic neighborhood full of trust-worthy, G-d fearing neighbors.

Of course, terrible things don’t have to happen for us to do teshuva.

We can and should work on feeling grateful and thanking and returning our hearts to God when everything’s going smoothly and wonderfully.

But when challenges do appear, there is always a hidden blessing. Hashem is always knocking, and during the test He is knocking louder than ever, just waiting for you to open the door to your heart.


  1. anytime you want to lift up your spirits just come and see my garden with all the funny,cute and weird little toys and things that i like to decorate it with and your clown of course. not just from the people who pass by and tell me how much they enjoy to see the garden, and the joy that brings me personally. but really i feel that all the green and prettiness is bringing holiness to us all – felt it very strongly today at this time of slihot its the time to make it more pretty for all our visitors and endless tours. so at least this will not change or let you down hashems beautiful creation. and you always smile when you come by.

  2. Devorah Shain

    Please don’t write stories about people who “bless” Hashem. Give us good role models to follow.

    Although we can learn from this story, I do think it would be wiser to leave it out.

    Thanks, Chana Jenny!

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