Each week, an elderly couple makes their way to the Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel to pick up some arrivals that are highly anticipated These passengers are not what you would expect, however. No diplomats or dignitaries, no celebrities or executives for Betty and Eddie Wolfe. These arrivals from the United States rate much higher than that.
Each week, the couple travels from their home to accept a shipment of gently used teddy bears as part of Operation Bear, an effort begun by Clair Ginsburg of New Jersey more than ten years ago. Ginsberg collects used bears in the U.S. and then sends them to a hospital in Israel for the children. Since the program began a decade ago, she has shipped over 130,000 bears to Israel.
Betty finds the weekly trip very rewarding. She says that at retirement age, she and her husband are doing something meaningful that they love.
The bears are carefully packed into duffel bags each week by Claire. Volunteers like Erez Gotlib hand deliver the bags to the Wolfes. The Wolfes take the toys and set to work sorting them to make sure only bears in goo condition and that are clean reach the children.
The city of Kfar Saba is home to the Meir hospital, the next stop on this remarkable journey for these bears. Here, Eddie passes them off to his daughter, Debbie. Debbie is the head nurse at Meir hospital.
She says the hospital sees more than 50,000 children every year. Each child who enters the hospital as a patient receives a bear. When they get their hands on their very own bear, their faces light up according to Debbie. It helps reduce their fear and lets them relax a bit. When a child feels calm, he automatically feels just a little bit better.
A 5,600 mile trip may seem like a long way to go to find a new home but when there is a smile and a bear-sized hug on the other end, the trip is worth it.