Perseverance, tenacity, time, patience are all needed for “first-degree family of olim” (non-Israeli citizens with family that recently made an aliyah) to travel into Israel. There are lots of forms, documents, COVID-19 tests (both serology and swabs) and permissions to be granted. All of this was made even more stressful due to an overwhelmed Israeli

Consulate that could not possibly deal with the onslaught until the last final days before an applicant’s scheduled departure. While restrictions are being loosened for Israeli citizens, non-citizens in April and May had many hoops to hurtle. No complaints, it’s probably a good thing that Israel is so protective of its people.

My wife, Linda, and my trip to visit our son, daughter-in-law, three granddaughters and one infant grandson, who we had never met in person took an unexpected turn with the unfriendly and uninvited Hamas rockets coming in. In retrospect, the timing could not have been more perfect. Instead of worrying about our family from halfway around the world, we could worry holding them in our arms.

It was Israel’s as well as our family’s time of need, and we were there. During the month away, I took a walk in the town of Tel Mond and visited a local watering hole in the center of town. I was invited to sit with a group of religious men, a few who spoke English fairly well. The overriding question poised to me was, what the heck am I doing here in Israel during this time of turmoil.

Thankfully, I had a prior mentally rehearsed response, as I had been expecting this sort of question to come up. I simply stated what better time to be in Israel to show we stand by her and support her through thick and thin. The response was palpable, and I knew I had made a favorable impression. One local gentleman stated he had some distant relatives in Cleveland, and I felt as if I was some sort of ambassador extending well wishes from the Jewish community of Cleveland.

This little, probably insignificant experience was a highlight for me, perhaps even more so than watching the Iron Dome do its job from the balcony of our condominium on the Mediterranean Sea before going into a safe room at the request of sirens screaming at me. My son’s friends thought it was funny and I was ridiculed when they learned instead of immediately hunkering down, I was taking photographs.

My wife and I are now safely back home. Our good friend and travel agent had booked and postponed this trip six times in 2020 and early 2021 before it finally came to fruition, only to have to reschedule our trip home after airlines temporarily halted flights in and out of Israel.

Hopefully, my son and daughter-in-law with children in tow will be coming back to Cleveland to visit this summer. In the meantime, it’s just not possible to let any potential future terrorism terrify us. To do so means the terrorist win. We are now planning our fall visit back to our beloved Israel.

Clifford Wolf of Beachwood is a member of the Cleveland Jewish News Foundation Board of Directors.

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