San Francisco native Cole is spending Passover on base. (COURTESY FIDF)
San Francisco native Cole is spending Passover on base. (COURTESY FIDF)

Passover lockdown in Israel cuts ‘lone soldiers’ from Bay Area off from family

Maia Elder-Kadar and her husband, Ofer, won’t be seeing their daughter, Yael, over Passover this year.

“She said she misses us,” Elder-Kadar said. “She misses her friends.”

Yael, 18, is one of a number of Bay Area Jews currently in the Israeli Defense Forces who is facing a Passover far from home this year because of travel restrictions due to the coronavirus.

Her mother, a teacher at Gideon Hausner Jewish Day School in Palo Alto, was planning to see her over Passover — “to get a hug and spend a day or two” — during a school trip to Israel.

“That got canceled,” the Jewish studies and Hebrew teacher said. “So seeing my kid got canceled.”

There are 44 young people from the Bay Area serving as “lone soldiers,” according to Friends of the IDF, an international nonprofit that provides support and services to Israel’s military. Like all Israelis, they went under lockdown at 4 p.m. local time Tuesday, April 7, through at least 7 a.m. Friday to stem the spread of the coronavirus during the seven-day Passover holiday.

Yael is not on a base, but on a kibbutz with a few other soldiers. She’ll have to stay there until the lockdown is over instead of spending the holiday with her extended family in Israel. “That wasn’t an option this year,” Elder-Kadar said.

Meanwhile, Cole, a San Francisco native, is stuck on base during the lockdown, which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Monday evening in a nationally televised address from his official residence in Jerusalem.

“Being away from my family is never an easy thing, when you’re far away from home you sometimes miss some of those special events or moments with one another,” Cole said in an email to J.


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But he said he’d be with his family — a family he defined as “goofy — virtually instead. “Definitely a given that I’ll be having a fun conversation with them during Pesach,” he said.

Yael also will be connecting with her parents online, as well as celebrating Passover on the kibbutz — albeit 6 feet away from everyone else — with three other lone soldiers.

“They support each other really, really well,” her mother said. And Yael’s parents still have plans to visit during the summer, if restrictions are lifted.

Sagit Manor of Mountain View also was planning on visiting her son, Guy, 18, at Passover. Instead, she’ll be connecting online with Guy, who is on a closed base.

“They are having a nice meal,” she said. “And what we’re planning to do, we’re going to call and zooming in.”

She said he’s happy and positive with “good people around him,” but that she misses him.

“I have no idea when I’m going to see him,” she said.

But she said she supports his decision to be in the IDF, especially since she’s an Israeli who also served.

“It’s a really brave and tough decision that he made,” she said.

As for the rigors of a Passover in lockdown, Cole said it was hard to feel bad when knowing it was so much worse for others during the global pandemic.

“When you draft to the IDF, you understand you serve a more higher purpose than your own personal gains. It’s an attitude of selflessness,” he said.

Maya Mirsky
Maya Mirsky

Maya Mirsky is a J. Staff Writer based in Oakland.