JERUSALEM (JTA) — Some 300 flights to and from Ben Gurion International Airport have been canceled in the wake of a volcano eruption in Iceland.
As of Monday, about 48,000 people travelling between Israel and Europe have been stranded, including at least 20,000 Israelis.
The ash on Monday also for the first time prevented a flight from North America from taking off for Israel, Haaretz reported.
More than 6.8 million passengers have been affected by the grounding of flights since the volcano under Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull glacier erupted on April 14 for the second time in less than a month, sending a cloud of volcanic ash spreading across Europe.
About one-third the number of regular flights took off on Monday in European airspace, according to reports. About 28,000 flights take off on a typical Monday.
Israel’s Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz called on Israeli airlines to do everything possible to bring stranded Israelis home. Israeli airlines were set to travel to any European destination from which flights to Israel are allowed to leave in order to retrieve Israeli travelers, Ynet reported.
Tony Blair, the Quartet representative to the Middle East, remained stranded in Jerusalem over the weekend, disrupting his plans for general election campaigning in Britain, the French news agency AFP reported.
The flight disruptions caused by the volcanic ash also led to the cancellation of a meeting of the Congress of Russian Rabbis, which also was to include rabbis from Europe and Israel.