Will the third time be a charm? St. Louis grandmother again tries to visit family in Israel


Steve and Maxine Mirowitz with their grandson Ethan. Photo: Bill Motchan

Eric Berger, Associate Editor

Maxine Mirowitz is supposed to travel May 24 to Israel to visit her son’s family. But she has resigned herself to the possibility that the trip, for the third time in the last year, may be canceled.

The first two times it was because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now it’s because of the conflict between Israel and Hamas. Israel has closed Ben Gurion Airport to incoming flights.

“It’s devastating,” said Mirowitz, a member of Bais Abraham Congregation.

Her son, Lee “Shmuel” Mirowitz, and his wife, Hannah “Sara” Kaiser, moved to Israel almost four years ago. They now live in Netanya, a city of more than 200,000 people in the center of the country, and have two daughters, Nesya, 3, and Emuna, 1.


Mirowitz was able to visit in February 2020, just before the virus shut down normal life across the world. She typically visits twice a year.

To try to close that physical distance gap, Mirowitz uses the Zoom videoconferencing platform each morning to talk with her family and read her grandchildren stories. She also journals each day and plans to share the writing with Nesya and Emuna one day to “show them what their life” was like, she said.

And for Mirowitz, “it’s very therapeutic. It helps me process.”

In Netanya, Mirowitz’s family has had to take shelter in a safe room inside their apartment when sirens sound to warn them of rockets fired from Gaza.

The family can visit parks but only if a bomb shelter is nearby, Mirowitz said.

For the family in Israel, the last year has been a tumultuous one, not only because of the recent fighting and the COVID-19 pandemic but also because of the continued political uncertainty, Mirowitz said. The country has held four elections for prime minister in the last two years and may be on its way to a fifth.

Given its rapid vaccination process, the country was able to lift its lockdown order earlier than much of the rest of the world and return to a semblance of normalcy — until this latest fighting.

“I am extremely concerned as a parent, and it makes counter-intuitive sense, that is why I am going, to reassure me that they are OK,” Mirowitz said. “They also need my help — no question about it. I just hope I can help them and arrive safely.”