War Disrupts Local’s Israel Visit

Steve Propes

In 1957, Long Beach-based blues musician Bernie Pearl first visited Israel, staying until 1958. In 2017,  his driving partner, one-time Long Beach resident and financial adviser Glenn McKinney began making a so-called blues festival tour of Israel, which included about a half dozen urban bar and kibbutz appearances.

This time, Pearl said his brother Stan, 93, wanted to take one more trip. The brothers arrived on El Al, nonstop to Ben Guirion Airport on October 3 for a ten-day stay. 

On Oct.. 6 at about 6 a.m., Gaza-based Palestinian group Hamas launched a 4,000-rocket attack on various nearby settlements, some rockets reaching as far as Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Especially worrisome to kibbutz residents were the breeching of walls and fences that separated Gaza from Israel, with Palestinians described as terrorists infiltrating settlements for the purpose of killing residents, and kidnapping hostages.

Said McKinney who arrived on Delta from Atlanta, “we are moving around the country quite a bit. And not because we need to due to the situation here, which is largely occurring in Gaza and the surrounding region.

“We were in the exact zone that was attacked in the northern Negev,” said Bernie Pearl. “Visited with one of my friends at the Urim Kibbutz named Mordi. He said it received one rocket. One member is assumed to be abducted, where all the murders happened. They slipped through, it was very carefully planned invasion, disabled all the sensors and machine guns. Their only plan was to murder”

”On day trips from Urim, we also traveled through Afokim and spent an afternoon in Be’er Sheva, both areas that would be hard hit by Hamas,” said McKinney. “In an area not far from Urim, Hamas terrorists had descended upon a music festival. They committed horrific, barbaric acts against innocents, and we would soon learn of these atrocities along with the rest of the world.

“Saturday morning, we woke up in Jerusalem to the sound of sirens and the distant thud of bombs,” said McKinney. “We felt safe, comforted a bit by the fact that our next door neighbor was the US Embassy. We communicated regularly with our in-country, local contacts and took guidance as needed. Largely, that gave us peace of mind to continue with our scheduled itinerary.”

While in Jerusalem, “We didn’t hear or see anything except for fairly steady sirens,” said Pearl. “We were headed north. There was some action in the north and an exchange in the east. 

For a late Saturday dinner in Jerusalem, “We found a Chinese restaurant in an area that is normally hustling and bustling. The streets were largely empty, places closed.  It was a ghost town, very surreal. The place was overflowing with police activity everywhere, but it seemed to be more that they were getting on top of things before they turn into situations that might escalate. They’re on it, big time.

From there, “we headed north to Haifa, north of Tel Aviv. On the way, we went through three separate security checkpoints on the highway.” Pearl said they were not stopped at the checkpoints, with guards merely looking into cars..

That evening, “over dinner, our host shared that a family friend in the military had been killed in the conflict,” said McKinney. “This is a country where everyone knows one another. If you don’t know someone directly, you know someone who knows someone who’s been impacted. This morning, that same host informed us that a mutual friend’s grandson was injured by gunfire in the south. He’s in the military. We’ll be staying with them on Wednesday, our last night in Israel.”

As of October 9, they were in Katsrin in the Golan Heights, some distance from the troubled Gaza area. “The vibe here is much different. We passed many military vehicles coming from the area, and there are some military personnel on the ground in the region. Many places are closed, but still, people are out. Some. There is a slightly elevated edge here. It’s palpable. Heading east today. Safed, Qatsrin, depending on conditions.

“For the most part, our trip has been only modestly inconvenienced by the outbreaks of violence and ongoing war efforts in the country,” said McKinney, who decided against filing an application for the U.S. airlift which required a signature acknowledging payment for the flight would be owed.

Bernie and his brother flew out on El Al at 1 a.m. on Friday, arrived at LAX at 6 a.m. the next day. Delta, which had scheduled Glenn’s flight for Thursday, cancelled all their flights, so Glenn traveled to Amman, Jordan by shuttle flying on Jordanian Royal Airlines to France.

Pearl said he would return to Israel if an opportunity arose, but has no such plans right now. “Got to brush up on my Hebrew,” he said.


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