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October 10, 2015 / 27 Tishri, 5776
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Protecting Our Children

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I wait at the airport for the arrival of my youngest son, along with his wife and baby. Upon arrival, they will rent a car and make their way in an unfamiliar city to his oldest brother’s house.

I took two connecting trains to get here. I have no idea how to travel by car from the airport to my son’s house, as I am also a visitor.

But I’d rather pace at the airport than in my son’s living room. I’d rather wait here and greet them, and sit with them in their rental car as their GPS guides (or as often happens misguides) them to our destination. This is better than tossing and turning in bed while fighting the temptation to call every few minutes, asking, “Where are you?” – and annoying and distracting them to no end.

Why the worry and anxiety? After all, my son and daughter-in-law are intelligent, competent young adults. The answer is obvious. Age, ability and brains aren’t guarantees against disasters.

Years of traveling – mostly between Canada and the U.S., with some overseas travel – and of hearing too many stomach-churning stories about accidents to and from the airport, missed or canceled flights, and “interrogations” by overzealous, possibly anti-Semitic border guards and security personnel, have made me very wary and uneasy. So to keep my blood pressure at a safe level, I make it my business to be informed of my traveling kids’ whereabouts.

Summer goes hand in hand with traveling. Young people especially are on the move, and many go backpacking through Europe or Asia, or tour on their way to Israel during their post-high school yeshiva or seminary year. Although the great majority travels safely and with no hassles, mishaps can and do happen. Thus I suggest the following travel rule:

If the traveler is going alone to the airport, he should let someone know that he arrived safely. If he is going on an international flight, he should call after clearing security, perhaps after he has boarded.

The reason: If, chas v’shalom, he does not show up at his destination, those concerned will have an idea of where to start looking – and where not to look.

It is not unheard of for travelers, especially young people, to be subjected to extra questioning while crossing a border. This once happened to my son in Turkey, and to me years ago when I flew from Toronto to the U.S. I was taken to a private room and asked if I was from Jamaica. My guess is that a driver’s license that I had lost a year earlier had somehow surfaced there in the wrong hands.

Here are the facts: identity theft is on the rise, or due to a name similar to someone on a criminal/terrorist watch list, you can be detained. This might be why I was held for over an hour, almost missing my flight.

Several years ago one of my sons flew in from Israel for his older brother’s wedding. He was taking a cab from Yerushalayim to Ben-Gurion airport, and arriving at dawn on Sunday. I urged him to call and leave a message once he was at the boarding gate. It was still Shabbos in North America and I would not be able to call his cell phone.

To my great relief he called from the plane after boarding, saving my mental health because the next morning, while waiting at the airport, he did not exit – at least not with the rest of the flight. I waited and waited, and started worrying when passengers from a later flight began exiting from the restricted area.

But because of his call I knew that he had safely arrived at Ben-Gurion, and that he had made it through security.

So despite being a no-show more than an hour after landing, I knew that he made the flight and I would not have to look for him in an Israeli hospital or detention cell. He was in New York, and possibly being delayed by immigration/customs at JFK. I could deal with that. As it turned out, he had been searching for the missing bag that carried his brother’s wedding present. Apparently, it did not make it onto the plane.

Without the phone call letting me know he was boarding his flight, I would have – for a horrendous long hour – imagined the worst.

The kids might think you are overreacting by asking them to check in. But the world isn’t perfect, and bad things happen to the best and smartest people. It’s in both their best interest to call, and your own peace of mind for them to invest in that 10- second call. It’s a win-win situation.

It’s also a must for anyone leaving their house, even for a short while, to carry ID with an emergency contact number or two. If there are babies or non-verbal toddlers involved, it is crucial that family members be immediately found and notified so that the already traumatized children can be quickly placed with soothing, familiar faces.

A little foresight and thoughtfulness can go a long way in preventing needless emotional distress.

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