With Most Flights Canceled, Chartered Airlift Is Bringing US Teens Home From Israel


JERUSALEM (JTA) — The entire student body of URJ Heller High in Israel, a high school affiliated with the Reform movement, will return to the United States on a chartered flight, along with dozens of students from other Israeli programs for American teens.

Rabbi Loren Sykes, URJ Heller High principal, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency Sunday that the flight, which is scheduled to leave on Monday night, came together in less than 24 hours.

There are 232 seats on the charter flight and 87 of them will be filled by Heller students who were spending the semester in Israel. They will be accompanied by a chaperone.

Sykes declined to name the other institutions that will be putting students on the flight, which cost $1,800 per passenger. But he acknowledged that there would be students from different Jewish denominations on the flight.

Sykes said that Heller students will complete the rest of the school year via online learning, allowing the students to receive their full credits for the semester of high school.

“We are very, very sad that the students have to go home, but it’s the prudent thing to do,” said Sykes, who also serves as the director of Israel Programs for URJ Youth.

He said that the Israeli government’s announcement Saturday night prohibiting gatherings of more than 10 people and the Ministry of Tourism’s previous announcement that all tourists must return home (the students are in Israel on tourist visas) were enough to set the plan to return the students in motion.