A group of teenagers were “in shock” this week after they were prevented at the last minute from flying to Israel for their gap year with Liberal Jewish Youth (LJY) and Reform Synagogue Youth (RSY) amid new regulations banning inward travel from the UK.
The five —Talya Ehrlich, Lily Crane-Newman, Elisheva Landau-Pope, all aged 19, and Evie Leibling-Blitz and Josh Freedman, both 18 — have all been involved in their youth movements since they were children and had been planning their year in Israel for months.
The teenagers had been assured that their status as participants in an educational trip would allow them to fly to Israel. As Lily explained to Jewish News this week, the group had checked in their bags, gone through security, and were waiting at the gate at Luton Airport, ready to board their WizzAir flight on Sunday.
“But then they announced at the gate that people who did not have an Israeli passport would not be allowed to fly”, Lily said. “We were separated into another queue while the airline authorities — and we — tried to find out what was going on”.
She said: “We could actually see the plane from where we were standing. Going on this year programme has been all we talked about for years. We had to stand and wait while our luggage was taken off the plane.”
Talya, known as Tali, has been in LJY in Birmingham since she was eight years old. “Basically it’s been my life,” she said. “It doesn’t feel real. We are all in shock. We learned that the new instructions from the Israeli government had only arrived half an hour before we were due to board the plane. If we’d got there half an hour earlier, maybe we could have been on the flight”.
Lily said: “We tried to speak to as many people as possible in the airport. One result — I hadn’t met the people from RSY before, so as a bonding experience, this was right up there”.
All of the teens had taken precautions before setting off for their flight, isolating against Covid and knowing that they would have to spend time in quarantine in a Jerusalem flat before beginning their year programme.
Rabbi Charley Baginsky, chief executive of Liberal Judaism, said: “This year group have had an extremely tough run through the virus, with their A levels and then the build-up of ‘can we make this happen’. We got them so close, five young Progressive Jews who missed out on starting their gap year in Israel by 30 minutes”. She said that both movements would be doing everything possible to get the group to Israel: movement workers in Israel are due to hold meetings with Israeli authorities in the week to try to resolve the situation.
Meanwhile the “devastated” teenagers have to sit and wait. “We’d put our lives on hold for this year”, Lily said. “We really can’t believe what happened”.
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