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Boaz Shron

Boaz's photo of Israel from the airplane

Maylene and Israel Ludwig's Grandson Boaz Shron's First Hand Report: Returning from Israel Via Abu Dhabi

by Boaz Shron, Nov 9, 2023


Those more attentive readers of this column may remember that I wrote my last piece while coming home from Israel on Etihad Airways via Abu Dhabi. This is an unconventional route at the best of times, but it was my safest option when fleeing a war, which at the time seemed unlimited in its potential escalation. I had to remind myself of this when, on the night before I left, the news broke that a hospital was bombed in Gaza, with hundreds thought to be dead. Later it would turn out that Israel did not bomb the hospital, but at the time there were massive protests against Israel in Egypt, Jordan and Morocco, and Israel repatriated some of its embassy staff in those countries for their security. And here I was, about to fly through the United Arab Emirates. My parents were, to use the eloquent Yiddish phrase, on shpilkes

I left the dorms the next morning together with the program-contracted taxi and a volunteer delegation of friends. We promptly got stuck behind President Joe Biden’s convoy on the way to Ben-Gurion Airport. At the preliminary security check at Ben-Gurion, I got grilled. In general, and particularly at a time like this, Ben-Gurion security are on the lookout for people who are deserting the IDF. The security officer wanted to know why I had been in Israel for the past six weeks. I said I was on a gap-year program. Her English was not so good so I told her I was at a mechinah, the rough Hebrew translation for my type of program. The problem is, I speak Hebrew with a fairly convincing Israeli accent, which I forgot to drop in this instance. So the security officer now had cause to think I may be an Israeli escaping military service (which I am not, by the way). Here is how the rest of the conversation went, edited for brevity:

Officer [raises eyebrows]: Where did you get your Hebrew from?

Me: From TanenbaumCHAT.

Officer: What’s that?

Me:  A community Jewish high school in Toronto.

Officer: What synagogue do you go to?

Me: In Israel or in Toronto?

Officer: In Toronto.

Me: I go to Zichron Yisrael-Ayin L’Tzion.

Officer: Who’s the Rabbi?

Me: Rabbi Grysman and Rabbi Lax.

Officer: Why are there two rabbis?

Me: Because our shuls merged about two years ago.

Officer: What holidays do you celebrate?

Me: All of them.

Officer: No, I need you to list the holidays.

Me: Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Shemini Atzeret-

Officer: What do you eat on Rosh Hashanah?

Me: Brisket, circular challah, apples and honey, but no head of a fish- that’s disgusting.

Officer [laughing]: Okay, go ahead. 

To this day, my dad thinks I should check my passport for her phone number. 

I suppose the rest of my journey is notable for some because it was so uneventful. I wore a hat and tucked in my tzitzit, which, given the current climate, I likely would have done in any airport. The only people who might have known I was Jewish were Etihad staff who saw my name on my passport. And they were very friendly and helpful, making sure that this 18-year-old far from home was being taken care of. There was one staff member who looked at me curiously and didn’t believe me when I said I was from Canada; he seemed to think I was Jordanian. All in all everyone was very nice and accommodating, both staff and other passengers.

The Etihad flight that I was on landed at New York’s JFK International Airport. My dad was in Connecticut on business, and he cut his trip short to pick me up and drive me home. It was a lovely drive through the Adirondacks, but at one point the 1980’s hit Two Tribes came on the radio. It starts with the sound of an air raid siren, which inconveniently sounds exactly like the Israeli rocket attack siren. I started tensing up and looking around for the shelter, even though I was in a car in upstate New York. I asked my dad to skip the song. Even now anything that sounds like the siren makes me anxious. I hope that this instinct will go away with time and help, but I’m not sure.

I wrote my last piece on my way home from Israel. I’m writing this piece on my way home from Canada. In spite of everything, I wanted to go back to Israel as soon as I arrived in Toronto. I missed the friendly, no-pretense culture. I missed my friends in the program. I missed being able to go almost anywhere with my kippa showing. Overall, I missed being a part of something bigger than myself. The strength and unity that I saw in our people in this historic moment was, and continues to be, a life-shaping experience. I’m very excited to get back to being a part of that. May everyone who travels to Israel merit to arrive in a peaceful and secure country.

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