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Welcome Back, Alan

Binyamin Rose

Three weeks ago, Mishpacha’s cover story was headlined with the question: “Why Is Alan Gross Still in Jail?” After a dramatic Chanukah prisoner swap that sprung Gross to freedom, the new burning question is: Will Gross’s release and a promise of improved US-Cuba relations, result in more freedoms for the Cuban people?

Monday, December 22, 2014

That last nervous moment for travelers leaving Cuba comes after the tax agent affixes a hologram sticker to your boarding pass as proof that you paid the mandatory $25 departure tax at José Martí International Airport. You think you’re on your way home, but one hurdle remains: You must show this sticker to a Cuban soldier who stands guard on the tarmac. Only with his stamp of approval can you board your flight.AlanGrosswas exempted from this fee. He more than paid his dues, serving five years and two weeks of a 15-year sentence in a Cuban prison on charges of subverting the Cuban government. Gross was working for a US State Department subcontractor to bring Internet and other mobile communications systems to the isolated Communist nation when he was arrested in 2009.He returned to the US last Tuesday in an aircraft emblazoned with the symbol of the United States of America. His wideJudithand a handful of members of Congress flew to Cuba to pick him up and take him back to friendly territory.On the flight back, Gross dined on a cold-cut sandwich and potato latkes that his wife brought along. He will probably enjoy his food more once he gets some dental work done. The gap from the teeth he’d lost in prison was evident when he read a short statement to the media late Tuesday in the office of hisWashingtonattorney,ScottGilbert.“Chag samei’ach. What a blessing to be a citizen of the United States of America. Thank you,PresidentObama, for everything you have done today,” said Gross, who declined to take questions. He asked the press to “respect my wishes for complete and total privacy.”JudithGrossis aware of the outpouring of prayers by our readership for her husband’s safe return, spurred by our cover story three weeks ago. In a brief e-mail, she wrote: “Thank you for your thoughts. I thought the article was wonderful.Judy.” 

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