Chavi Feldman

Five years and counting…

Last week, I wrote a blog about my grandmother’s 100th birthday. I received a lot of good wishes for her unbelievable milestone, and some comments to the blog on this platform, Times of Israel. One of the comments was from a woman who wished my grandmother a happy birthday but then questioned why I wasn’t in Canada to celebrate it with her.

It’s a sticky question and a rather complicated answer.

It’s been five years since I’ve visited my place of birth, Toronto, Canada. I’ve long since stopped referring to it as “going back home for a visit”. After more than thirty years in Israel, Toronto is now just the place where I was born, where I grew up, but it hasn’t been home for a very very long time.

For the first couple of years after I made Aliyah with my husband and baby girl, I counted down the days when I could go back for a visit. I missed home, missed my family and missed the familiarity of the place where I grew up. I missed Baskin Robbins ice cream (Jamoca Almond Fudge or Pralines and Cream), walking around Toogood Pond at Unionville, renting bikes on Centre Island, and more. At the time, tickets were still expensive but a lot cheaper than they are now, so once every 3 years, we were somehow able to manage a visit. Sometimes we went as a family, but I often came alone with one or two kids and stayed for a couple of weeks before heading back.

As the years passed, the time in between visits lengthened, but I still managed to go every other year or so, more when we had a special Simcha to go back for, a nephew’s bar mitzvah, and another nephew’s wedding.

Then Corona happened.

After Corona, my husband and I managed a quick getaway to Greece and a longer anniversary trip to South Africa.

Then October 7th happened.

Now there’s a war, and honestly, a vacation is the LAST thing on my mind right now. Like most Israelis, we’re still a bit stuck, and like a broken watch that has been frozen in perpetuity at 5:36 AM, I’m still stuck on October 7th.

Since February 5, 1995, this has been the longest stretch of time that I haven’t travelled.

And despite HATING airplane travel (jet lag and I are not on good terms), I do have a bit of wanderlust in my veins, and a long list of places that I’ve been dreaming of visiting.

Ireland’s Cliffs of Moher, France’s Chamonix , Italy’s Cinque Terre, England’s Cornwall to name just a few….

But now?

Just a month ago, I read about 2 Nova survivors who were invited by the Manchester Jewish community to come and give a talk about their experience. They were unlawfully detained and harassed at the airport by two antisemitic border agents who stated that they didn’t want these boys (who had just survived a massacre!) doing to Britain what they did to Gaza.


Mind blowing.


And I can’t forget the airplane that landed in Dagestan, Russia, to a violent and uncontrollable mob that stampeded the airport looking to attack passengers with an Israeli passport.

I remember making the trip to Toronto more than a decade or so ago and stepping up to border control and was asked to show my passport. I am a dual citizen of both Israel and Canada, and had departed Israel with my Israeli passport, and had planned on entering Canada with my Canadian passport. Although I was never asked this during previous visits, the border agent asked me if I carried a second passport. I replied yes, Israeli. He asked to see it. I was somewhat confused, but showed it and he nodded, stamped what needed to be stamped and I was on my way.

I never thought much about that incident because it wasn’t really an incident per say, but I started thinking about it now.

On a similar trip, I flew back home to Israel via Rome on Alitalia. I experienced what can only be called an Antisemitic incident. I was cleared through customs quickly and was already on a bus with tons of other passengers on our way to the tarmac to board the plane when suddenly the bus turned around and took us all back to the main terminal. We were then divided into two groups and it became very clear to me that one group were those who carried an Israeli passport.

All of us were then asked to open up our carry-ons so they could be inspected – AGAIN. When it was my turn, I was asked to hold my arms out and a male agent started to pat me down. I told him nicely that I preferred a woman to check me – mind you, this was not behind a screen, this was in front of everyone standing there – and he completely ignored me. I asked several times and then turned to the woman standing there ignoring me and asked why no one was listening to me and that was requesting to speak to someone in charge. The male agent snapped at me and said, “if you don’t let me do my job, you’re not getting on this flight.” The woman standing there avoided any eye contact with me and proceeded to throw everything in my carry-on out onto a table as she rifled through my things and then threw it all back in. I was speechless. And being alone, I was terrified about being detained, so I kept my mouth shut as he ran his hands up and down my legs – I was wearing a skirt – and there was nothing I could do about it. I subsequently wrote a letter to Alitalia but received no response. The experience shook me to my core, and that was when there was no war happening at the time.

I could only imagine what could happen if I took a trip now, with both passports. With what’s been going on in the rest of the world – the incident in the Manchester airport I mentioned above, the Dagestan incident, and just last week, the frenzied mob that attempted to raid a hotel in Athens that had Israeli tourists barricaded inside – it’s made me think twice.

My sister has come twice since October 7th and I had mentioned that as a Jew, I was afraid to travel. She waved her hand at me like it was nothing and said, it’s totally fine, that they hadn’t had any incidents whatsoever.

Then I reminded her that she only carries a Canadian passport. It doesn’t say anywhere on her passport that she’s a Jew or is in any way affiliated with Israel. Easy peasy, piece of cake. She can pretty much go anywhere in the world – especially with a Canadian passport. While I too carry a Canadian passport, I ALSO carry an Israeli one, and the thought of being asked to show my second passport anywhere in the world has me breaking out into hives.

I have plenty of friends that have been traveling back and forth with two passports for either business or family and have had absolutely no issues whatsoever, so I know – intellectually – that were I to travel, it would probably be just fine. But I just can’t shake off the trepidation and anxiety that come over me when I think about it.

Basically, I’m afraid to go anywhere right now given the current situation.

And then, as my mind races on further, I ask myself, even if I were in the right frame of mind to take a trip, where would I go? The list of countries where I feel it’s safe to go are dwindling fast, and the last thing I want to encounter on a vacation is a violent mob of Antisemitic people shouting “from the River to the Sea” at me because of my husband’s kippa that he refuses to ever take off. And if I forced him to take it off because of my fear, the question bears asking: do I really want to visit a country where he can’t wear a kippa openly and proudly?

So I guess THAT’S my line in the sand: I will hopefully one day ONLY go to places where my husband can wear his kippa openly and proudly without fear, AND only to countries that believe in Israel’s right to exist. (That list is dwindling even faster….) And so while that ironclad condition might knock out a few pins on my travel globe, so be it.

And a final thought which those of you who live outside of Israel might find strange and quite unbelievable: I honestly don’t feel safe anywhere else in the world other than here.

And that’s the God’s honest truth.

About the Author
Chavi Feldman has a degree in graphic design and advertising and works primarily as a music teacher. She has lived in Israel for more than two decades.
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