Ottawa woman cancels her 'birthright' trip to Israel, too risky
Published Wednesday, July 23, 2014 4:58PM EDT
The intense fighting in Gaza has more airlines steering clear tonight of the region's busiest airport.
Air Canada cancelled its flights today into Tel Aviv, as the death toll from the conflict grows. Passengers are stranded at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion airport after dozens of North American and European flights were cancelled. A young Ottawa woman was supposed to be on a flight today to Tel Aviv. It's her birthright trip; something she has been planning for months. But her family decided the situation is too dangerous and the risk for now, too great. It was to be the trip of a lifetime for 22 year old Hailey Desormeaux; a free 10-day trip for young Jewish adults.
“It’s a great opportunity for Jewish kids to experience Israel,” explains Desormeaux, as she unpacks her bag.
Hailey was supposed to be on that Air Canada flight today from Toronto to Tel Aviv. When that got cancelled, the youth group from Canada was bumped onto the Israeli airline El Al. Her friend from Ottawa took that flight. She and her family decided the risk was too great.
"I feel heartbroken I can't be there at this time,” laments Hailey, “but given the past events with Air Malaysia, and the rocket that landed there (in Tel Aviv) a kilometre away, I wasn't sure if this was a risk I was willing to take.”
It was a tough decision for Hailey; equally hard for her parents.
"It's very difficult, says father Paul, “We were crying. My daughter has been planning it for a long time. It was heartbreaking. We haven't been sleeping but we made this decision for our daughter's safety.”
Passengers flying in to Toronto from Tel Aviv this morning say the area is safe and don't understand why flights are being cancelled.
“I feel excited to go,” says one woman at the Pearson airport in Toronto, “and I don't understand why airlines aren't flying.”
“We're Israelis,” adds another, “We're not afraid of anything and we think the whole thing is ridiculous.”
Not everyone is feeling that confident, especially when it involves their children.
“You will get there,” Paul Desormeaux reassures his daughter, “but right now is too dangerous."
Hailey's birthright trip is lost but she is planning a six-month internship in Tel Aviv. She's supposed to fly out in a couple of weeks.
“I'm fully confident that I will be safe, at the end of august,” says an optimistic Desormeaux, “I just couldn't fly out at 9 a.m. this morning
There are diplomatic efforts to get Israel and Hamas to stop the fighting, but a truce is elusive, and certainly not imminent for the families here and in Israel, wondering what to do next.