Shlichus in Bolivia is one long drama, and Coronavirus just makes things crazier. Read here the story of how Rabbi Itzik Kupchik coped on Shlichus during the Covid-19 pandemic in a third world country, part three.
Read part three here.
Friday. A busy day, like it is everywhere. The phone rings. Great! We can go to the office to pick up the documents! We quickly get ready to go. Within half an hour we are in the office.
In two hours, we are out of there. The new born baby has his ID!
The next stop: A passport. Without a travel document the baby cannot leave Bolivia. Any child born in Bolivia is allowed a Bolivian passport. So, we go to Immigration to where they issue passports. Its closed.
The truth may be told that in that instant we were happy because it meant we could go back home and get ready for Shabbos in peace…
So, on Monday, back we went to the passport office and to our surprise it was a short process. We filled in all the forms. We went and paid the fee at the bank… and within an hour, the baby’s passport was in our possession.
The next thing was getting a visa to America.
There are no direct flights between far-off Bolivia and Eretz Yisroel. Our route takes us through America.
While we were busy with the passports, we suddenly ran into bad luck.
We realized that with all the time that had gone by our eldest son, Mendele’s passport had expired.
He has an Israeli passport as he was not born here and is not eligible a Bolivian passport.
How could we not have seen this until now? Now it doesn’t matter. It’s just another issue in the never-ending whirlwind of Israeli and Bolivian passports, and immigration permits and it’s just that this new problem needs a special official to deal with it…
We actually have to do this quickly. But really quick. We need to get hold of a new passport.
There is no Israeli consulate in Bolivia.
The Consulate in Lima makes it very clear that with all the good will in the world, they know for a fact that there are no flights in and out, and deliveries from Lima. With no passport for Mendele we really are trapped here! Suddenly we hear about a rescue flight that will be leaving from Miami. So is that plane coming from Miami to Bolivia?
The Consul in Miami who is a wonderful person, goes out of his way to help us.
I make contact with a good friend in Miami, Sholom Kleinman, and I explain the situation to him. He stops everything he is doing and goes to print out pictures and forms, to go to the consulate, to pay and to go back to get the passport.
Two hours later he reports: Tomorrow the passport will be ready.
“What do you mean tomorrow??? The flight is this evening! There is no other oportunity!…”
The Consul leaves his home specially and goes to have the passport made. An hour later he has it. In the meantime, I make contact with a travel agent from our Jewish community and I asked him to please arrange that the passport would be sent by courier on a Bolivian flight.
Nothing worthwhile comes easily…
This company does not take or deliver passports.
Maybe we could find someone connected?
Maybe a letter from the consulate saying this is a humanitarian case would help?
“Even if you bring a letter from Bibi Netanyahu it wouldn’t help.” stated the head of our Kehilla.
“The only option is that your man in Miami should go over to their offices and beg your case.”
Sholom the Shaliach! A real soldier of the Rebbe. Although there are only 7 hours left till the flight, when he gets to the airport the offices are still closed…
He tries his luck with the company offices in the city. I try at the same time to get hold of the managers in the LaPaz office. We try from both sides of the world together and nothing helps. They refuse to take the passport. They won’t even give us details of a staff member who perhaps can help us as a private citizen.
We should try DHL, Sholom suggests. I have checked already. He isn’t ready to give up so he drives over to their offices in Miami. They can take the passport but it will take at least two weeks and that’s not sure either…
Then the question is: Where will my help come from? then the answer is: “My help is from Hashem.” …
Sholem goes home and leaves an hour later to stand near the check in counter to try and find a passenger to help. The problem is that he doesn’t really speak Spanish.
By a miracle he finds a girl going to Bolivia who is prepared to take the passport!
I speak to her on the phone to take care of all the details in Spanish.
Mendele’s passport is on the way.
I allow myself to begin to breathe a sigh of relief.
The flight lands at 4 in the morning. She is supposed to be taken directly to a government quarantine hotel. We have a two-minute window: From the second she walks in to the terminal and until she gets to the bus.
This flight is not landing in La Paz but in Santa Cruz which is a city that is an hour flight away from us. How are we going to get there? And the lockdown there is very strict and no-one is allowed out of their houses.
I call a Yid who lives there and he tries to find a reliable taxi driver who has all the special permits. Not simple, but he does!
It takes him 2 hours to find this treasure. The driver will wait at the airport at 4:00 in the morning, carrying a special notice and he will get the passport. At 6 he will come back there and give the passport to the company that will deliver it to La Paz.
I get up before dawn and start writing and biting my nails. The flight has landed in Santa Cruz but the driver is a bit late… G-d has to help.
If he is any later this whole business is going to get even more complicated. Thank G-d that the girl also delayed.
Boruch Hashem the passport changed hands and just one more step and we would have the passport.
A few hours later I get the envelope. They couldn’t understand why I was so excited! What a miracle.
As I said earlier, there are no direct flights from Bolivia to Israel and every flight goes through America.
The American consulate first asks for an interview to get visa, and then gives a date… in another month…
But what does my mother constantly say to me?
“Itzik, you know that miracles will happen in the end. Like always. But you have to believe in them and hold on to them right from the beginning – from now!”
The consulate let us off from having to come in for an interview. On Tuesday, the only day that the Consulate is open, during the times of Corona virus. We hope to get the visa. How amazing…
Now we just have to pray for a flight out of Bolivia…
A few more days go by.
Our Jewish travel agent call us.
“So, everyone has a visa and passports?”
“I have good news.”
We stop breathing.
“Next week there is a rescue flight from La Paz to America. Now you will finally be able to do a Bris for your baby and go to Israel. “Ze Hayom…”
I write to the Rebbe about the various travel possibilities.
The Rebbe’s answer strengthens us and makes us very happy. In this letter the Rebbe blesses a couple on their wedding and their connection, and our connection is to our own Mazal Tov.
“And here I express my blessing that they will be connected in a good and auspicious hour be Mazal Tov and Siman Tov and when they make the time of the wedding it should be with Mazal Tov and Siman Tov.”
The long and rocky way was behind us, the Bris we have not managed to do on time because we were “on a long journey.” We are hoping to finally reach the auspicious time when the new baby will be able to have the long-awaited Bris.
And the Rebbe answers in the letter:
And even at the time when all of Yisroel were bringing the Korban Pesach, and one who is impure or on a long journey… even so, all is not lost, and a special time will be made for him, after he purifies himself he will come to the Beis Hamikdash and will come in…”
The Rebbe’s brocha gives us a huge amount of strength to keep going forward.
Now the final barrier is before us.
The rescue flight, like all rescue flights is very expensive.
Multiply by 10 air tickets as well as for the Bochurim who were with us all this time.
This flight is only as far as Miami and then we need to buy tickets to Eretz Yisroel… It comes to the huge sum of $25,000.00…
I gave my word to the travel agent and he is going to order the flight, even though I have no idea, how I am going to pay for these flights.
We are always on the giving side. This time we need your help to get out of here.
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So many people contacted us after we sent these letters.
“Have you left already?”
“Have you had the Bris already?”
“Tell us the end of the story already.”
Some ask: “…Is this a fundraiser? …”
The truth is I also don’t know.
The American visas and the flight details I only got yesterday…