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SCV congregations react to canceled flights to Israel

Posted: July 22, 2014 5:57 p.m.
Updated: July 22, 2014 5:57 p.m.

U.S. and European airlines canceled flights to Israel Tuesday, but Santa Clarita Valley representatives of two faiths that consider Israel the holy land said they’re not worried about pilgrims’ safety.

“I don’t know if there is American political motivation, but it doesn’t quite make sense,” said Rabbi Mark Blazer of Temple Beth Ami. “Why today? Why not three days ago?”

Blazer said he’s been closely following news in Israel, as many of his students and members of his congregation are currently there.

One member began volunteering on an army base in Israel four days ago and is packing medical supplies for the front lines, Blazer said. A father of four and Stevenson Ranch resident, the member said life is continuing on as normal in Israel.

“He is doing fine,” said Blazer. “He wants Israelis in the United States to know that Israelis there are not living in fear. The focus has recently been on the soldiers fighting.”

Blazer said he knew Max Steinberg, the 24-year-old Woodland Hills resident who was killed in Israel on Sunday along with Nissim Sean Carmeli, a Texas resident. They were among 13 Israeli soldiers and 65 Palestinians killed Sunday during the first major ground battle in two weeks of fighting between Israel and Hamas.

Even so, Blazer said, “I am not worried about any of the people who are visiting there. I have sent my family there.”

Mike Gaston, lead pastor for outreach at Grace Baptist Church, has also been monitoring movements in Israel, as the church has a team traveling to the Middle East in a few weeks.

According to Gaston, Grace Baptist did send a tour group to Israel last year but is not planning additional trips in the near future.

“It won’t impact us in a personal way,” Gaston said. “But we are doing our best to educate ourselves to make sure no one is in danger.”

Blazer, too, said he is not worried about the flight cancellations for now, but the restrictions could affect future Jewish birthright trips.

Birthright trips are educational trips to Israel for Jewish young adults, ages 18 to 26, around the world. Young Jewish people travel to see and experience Israel and talk about what it means to the Jewish community.

The airlines did not announce Tuesday whether the flight cancellations would continue.

The Associated Press contributed to this report



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