Hurricane Sandy’s fury created a ripple effect that was felt in Israel, as thousands of tourists, business travelers and ordinary citizens found themselves stranded on both sides of the ocean.
As of midweek, all flights from Ben Gurion International Airport to both JFK and Newark airports had been cancelled through at least Wednesday morning. With JFK Airport reporting heavy flooding and high winds across its runways on Tuesday, and Newark Airport dealing with high winds and sporadic power problems, it was undetermined when regular flights to Israel from the metropolitan New York area would resume. U.S. Airways flights to Israel from Philadelphia International Airport were also canceled through at least Wednesday morning. Once the region’s airports resume a normal flight schedule, El Al, Delta, United and U.S. Airways will have to deal with a backlog of thousands of passengers whose flights were canceled earlier this week.
Thousands of American olim and native Israelis who live in Modiin, Beit Shemesh, Tel Aviv and other cities in close proximity to Ben Gurion Airport and who regularly commute to their jobs in the New York, Boston and Washington areas, found themselves scrambling to rebook their flights. Many of these commuters board El Al’s midnight and early Sunday morning flights from Israel and then return home via late night flights on Wednesday evening from JFK and Newark airports.
Nature’s fury also exacted a toll on Israeli tourists trapped in their Manhattan hotels, as well as Israelis trying to make their way to the New York area for various functions. According to ynetnews.com, a religious resident of Jerusalem was scheduled to marry his fiancée in the New York area this week, but Hurricane Sandy kept them apart. “The excited grin has been wiped off the chattan’s face,” the groom’s father told ynetnews.com on Monday.
Israeli pop singer David Broza, in the midst of his annual concert tour across the U.S., told Yediot Aharonot, “The situation in Tribeca during the storm was terrible. The streets were filling up with water and power outages were expected. I had a concert scheduled in Manhattan on Thursday but instead my wife and I prepared ourselves just like during the [First] Gulf War. The difference being, instead of taping up the windows with plastic, we have life preservers.”
In the hurricane’s wake, many Israelis were trying to establish contact with friends and family in parts of Brooklyn, Queens, Long Island and New Jersey.
Ironically, thousands of American business executives who were able to board flights to Israel earlier this week flooded into Tel Aviv hotels for a phalanx of annual conferences and meetings. According to the Tel Aviv Hotel Association, almost every major hotel in the Tel Aviv vicinity was booked to near capacity.
Steve K. Walz