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Birthright Israel Defies The Danger, Continues Free Youth Trips To Jewish State

Program Volunteers Say They Refuse To Let Turmoil Stop Them From Living Their lives

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Despite the danger in the Middle East, many Jewish families plan to keep their travel plans to Israel this summer.

They are not deterred by conflict or by the threat of rocket fire. They are not intimidated by the fact that planes from the United States temporarily stopped flying to Tel Aviv on Tuesday.

As CBS 2’s Lou Young found out, there remains a resolve amid a high demand for summer trips so close to a war zone.

The people at Birthright Israel, which organizes 10-day youth trips to the Jewish state that are paid for by the Jewish Federation, said they’re continuing to make plans for summer excursions.

“There has been a 30 percent drop off, but there are people who still want to get to Israel,” Birthright volunteer Keri Zaro said.

Eric Kaplan, also a Birthright Israel volunteer, said he plans to lead a group of 40 young people over there next week.

“It certainly gives me a bit of  hesitation, but there are people living there right now. They’re in serious danger, too, and life doesn’t stop because there are rockets flying,” Kaplan said.

College junior Heather Moskowitz just got back from a Birthright trip and said she got used to the sound of air raid sirens.

“I was (afraid); Israelis weren’t. Some of them stayed on the street. Some of them would just kind of move to the side,” Moskowitz said.

The trip, though, made an impression.

“I have an urge, when I’m watching the news; all I want to do is go back there. If you leave … or  let it get to you, they win,” Moskowitz said.

Birthright Israel was founded 14 years ago and has grown steadily since, Young reported. Its objective is to connect Jewish history with the struggle unfolding in Israel, reminding participants that someday they could need a place that will accept them unconditionally.

“They’re trying to get as many Jewish kids from around the world over to Israel. It’s a 10-day free trip for the kids. Why? It’s their birth right,” Zaro said.

“There are some people say it’s my right to go there. I like to think of it as a gift from generous philanthropists,” Kaplan added.

It’s a gift some may have to pass on accepting this summer, if enough planes aren’t able to land in the Holy Land.

Although many airlines suspended service to Israel on Tuesday, the country’s national airline, El Al, was still flying a full schedule, Young reported.

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