Flight Ban to Tel Aviv Affecting Md. Teens Visiting Israel
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Travel restrictions imposed by the FAA on U.S. airlines servicing Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion Airport are now in their second day with no indication when they will be lifted. Of course, that is causing all kinds of trouble for people trying to get to Israel or fly back home.
Among the travelers impacted are American teenagers, including many from the D.C. area, who spend part of their summer in Israel exploring their Jewish heritage.
That experience has been enlightened and interrupted this summer.
"I can't even recall a time when I've felt very unsafe or in danger because we've always been in places where we've been out of harm's way," says Liv Rogal, who is going to be a senior at Wootton High School in Rockville.
"I love Israel," she says. "We've had to rearrange some things in our schedule, but what we've done has been absolutely incredible."
Rogal and friend and classmate Kayla Goodman were in Jerusalem when we spoke to them via Skype Wednesday afternoon.
"It's amazing here," Goodman says.
The two Maryland teenagers are on a tour of Israel with more than 100 other teens and due to fly home on Sunday.
"We've felt a sense of community and I've had people coming to me saying even though this might not be the best time to visit, thank you for coming," Rogal adds.
For much of the summer, Jerusalem has been off limits under the threat of rocket strikes. The tour's itinerary changing with the times.
"Our general approach has been to avoid those areas that have been targeted by Hamas," says Matt Grossman, CEO of BBYO.
"BBYO as an organization tries to connect Jewish teens to their heritage," he tells us, "and one of the most powerful ways we're able to do that is by helping them to experience Israel."
Grossman just flew home via Tel Aviv Monday morning.
"We wouldn't be there if it wasn't safe," he says. "What we're doing right now is moving to the areas that are clear. We have a direct tie-in as all tour companies do what Israel calls the Situation Room."
"We had to change our itinerary and remain in the north for the majority of the trip, says Potomac's Bailey Dinman.
She just got back from her BBYO summer trip to Israel.
"A lot of kids were worried actually about getting home," Dinman explains, "but they reassured us that there's an iron dome specifically for the airport so it's one of the safest places in Israel. So we were very lucky that we got out when we did."
Bailey is going to be a senior at Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville.
The tour group's Grossman says if the U.S. airlines do not lift their travel bans, BBYO will get them out of Israel using other airlines.
British Airways among those still servicing Tel Aviv.
Grossman also points out Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv is considered one of the safest in the world.