Students share their thoughts on new direct flights to Israel

The most wonderful time of the year may be drawing near, but when it comes to airports, there is never a pleasant time. From the fatigue of a layover, to the constant changing of gates and delays of flights, traveling can become a hassle. After canceling service at Miami International Airport nine years ago, El Al, an Israeli airline, proudly re-launched a direct service between Miami and Tel Aviv. This route offers an immense connection between two countries.

Israel is part of the region that identifies as the Holy Land. Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, holds historic significance for religions like Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. Over the summer, two students had the opportunity to travel to Israel. Here are their takes on the recent turn of events including stories from their experience in the Holy Land:

 

Sabrina Fradette, Junior

  1. Describe your airport traveling experience.
  • Long, it was a very long process; to go through customs and get into Israel. Luckily I was with people I knew so it was fine. My flight was about eleven hours from New York.  
  1. Tell me about one person you met
  • One of my counselors was Jewish Orthodox. She acted as my mom throughout my time there. I really connected with her and she showed me that even though she was Jewish Orthodox, she was the coolest person ever. Due to religious purposes, she could not touch males, so she would do the jellyfish high-fives with the boys. I still text her to this day. Also, during my stay there, there was a terrorist attack at the temple in Jerusalem. My teacher was supposed to go two-days after the event and still went. The strength and resilience of the Israeli people is amazing and  truly inspiring.
  1. What made you want to go there?
  • There is a connection with just being Jewish. There is also the connection between everything my people went through. My sister, aunt, and mom loved it, so I was kind of pushed into it. Nevertheless, I always wanted to go to Israel.
  1. What was the hardest adjustment you had to make?
  • The language – getting used to saying everything in Hebrew. So instead of saying thank you saying toda (תודה).
  1. Hardest or most frustrating part of the trip?
  • Leaving [Israel] was definitely the hardest part, 100 percent. The thing is, you become so connected to the people and the land. I don’t know how to specifically describe it. It’s like you’re a magnet, you don’t know you’re attracted until you’re there, it is so hard to detach. That is what Israel is, you get so attached to the story, the people, the food, and the culture, that it makes you never want to leave.
  1. What did you learn about yourself?
  • The limits we set in our mind are really just blocks to our actual potential. The reason I say this is because I almost died on a mountain when it was 100 degrees outside. We were three-fourths down the mountain and I did not feel well. So the soldier that was with me told me I could either stay put and pass out from heat stroke and he would have to stick a thermometer [where the sun does not shine] or keep walking down the mountain. So I was like “okay, I will keep walking.” The lesson to be learned is that you do not have limits and that Israelis can be very upfront. How does this new direct flight affect you?
  • I am was so happy and excited when I heard about this new flight. Now that I have been to Israel, I just want to go back and back. Stopping in New York was terrible because it added about 4 more hours to the journey, but now knowing that I can fly from and to Miami without any interruptions is great. The things is once you get off that flight from Israel to New York, the last thing you want to do is get on another flight. The fact that there is a direct flight is amazing.
  1. What opportunities do you see with this new flight?
  • Having to stop and do layovers, I believe, is more expensive than that of flying directly, so it would be cheaper to fly to Israel. [Also,] people usually like direct flights so this just opens doors for people who want to experience Israel.
  1. Any final words?
  • Don’t  judge a book by its cover. The Israeli people can be very prickly, they are compared to the prickly pear fruit because when you first meet them they can be very abrasive but then once you connect with them they are the sweetest people. Don’t judge a book by its cover, because the inside can be amazing.

 

Emily Visnich, Junior

  1. Describe your airport traveling experience.
  • Coming back was bad because I was in Israel for three weeks so I fell in love with everything. However, returning to Miami we were stopped by TSA and lost about half of our youth group. Also, someone from my group was on their phone, so they took her in for questioning. Going there was not that bad, we just had a layover in New Jersey.
  1. What opportunities do you see with this new flight?
  • With this new flight, I believe things will be a lot easier, especially traveling in groups. It is easier to ensure that your luggage won’t get lost with connecting to another flight. For me, it would make traveling a little bit better; I hate having to get up from a flight after you are comfortable to go sit on another flight to sit next to a different person who you don’t know.
  1. What was your first reaction?
  • I first heard about this through my youth group. Each year new kids apply to go during the summer to Israel, I was helping out with the new set of kids and they were mentioning how they were going to use the direct flight to go. I was ecstatic when I found out; it makes it faster and more efficient to travel with such large groups. Also, for parents it makes them feel safer about the security of their children.
  1. Why did you decide to go to Israel?
  • So I had to go through an interview process to get into this youth group. I decided on this youth group just to be able to go to Israel. When my family and I found out that I got into the group we were really happy because I was the first to go to Israel out of all of us. So as someone who is Jewish, this is something you have to do. This was something for my religion. I always wanted to go and now that I have gone, I am trying to find ways to go back.
  1. What do you have to say about the misconceptions that people have about Israel compared to your experience?
  • I think people have to give Israel a chance. Yes, Israel has a lot of conflicts with the places surrounding. I think people judge it before they give it a chance. When I was first going I was scared because there are attacks and you don’t know what is going to happen. When I was there, there was an attack at a place where I was two days before. So you think, if only it had been two days behind, I could have been there. I walked around with an armed guard and medic every single day. If something were to happen, we were able to get the help needed. I think people have to give it chance before they say it is not safe to visit Israel. I felt safer walking around in Israel than I do here. It is not because I was with an armed guard  but because I would go out and walk around the neighborhood at 3 a.m. and talk to everyone. I felt safer there.
  1. Tell me about your experience in Israel.
  • Since I have a pen-pal in Israel, I was able to stay at her house for a week. In Israel, the community was much closer than here in Miami. So there were people in Israel that I had never met before, but they knew my name and knew of me because of my pen-pal. Everyone knows who you are.
  1. Any final words?
  • I think the direct flight is definitely going to change people traveling to Israel. I think a lot more people will want to go to Israel now that there is good news about Israel, with this direct flight. I think this is a good thing.