Jewish tourists stranded worldwide by volcano

By Robyn Rosen, April 22, 2010

The volcanic ash cloud left hundreds of Jewish tourists stranded across the world and dozens of communal events had to be scrapped.

More than 100 El Al flights to and from Israel were cancelled and tour operators struggled to cope with stranded passengers.

One flight that did manage to take off during last week's chaos was forced to turn back mid-way through its journey.

Monty and Frances Samuels, from Hampstead Garden Suburb, were returning to London from Ben Gurion Airport after attending their grandson's barmitzvah in Jerusalem.

Mr Samuels, 74, said: "We were about two hours from Heathrow when the pilot announced we had to turn around. When we got back to Ben-Gurion it was chaos. We've been glued to the TV since. Although it's lovely here, all we want to do is get home."

A group of 130 Australian schoolchildren were stranded in Poland after the March of the Living.

They were part of a two-week educational programme which brings Jewish teenagers from all over the world to Poland on Holocaust Memorial Day to march from Auschwitz to Birkenau and then to Israel for Yom HaZikaron and Yom Ha'Atzmaut.

The Zionist Federation was forced to cancel its Yom Ha'atzmaut party on Monday night because Israeli performer Achinoam Nini, her band, and five other singers were unable to travel.

Instead, it held a party in Euston with a band, Israeli dancing and a comedian.

Lord Janner was unable to deliver the keynote address at the 65th anniversary of the liberation of Bergen-Belsen on Sunday.

His spokesman said: "We looked at driving, but the ferries and euro-tunnel were full, Eurostar was fully booked and we were quoted a taxi for £1,300 to take us to Hanover.

"In the end, the Ministry of Defence kindly put us on one of their military transports that was heading to Germany from Birmingham, but even this was cancelled."

Chabad House in Hendon held a last-minute Shabbat meal for more than 100 Israelis after stranded tourists called for help.

Rabbi Dovid Katz said: "I gave a special dvar Torah about being away from home and how to make people feel more homely."

Stamford Hill security service Shomrim handed out kosher sandwiches at UK airports while the Charedi community transport service, Darkei Noam, set up an emergency bus service, transporting people across Europe.

Menasche Scharf, who runs a business and training centre, set up a temporary yeshiva in East London for more than 40 stranded students.

A prospective candidate for the rabbinic position at Belsize Square Synagogue was stranded after attempting to travel to his interview.

Rob Nothman, chairman of the rabbinic search committee, said: "He was due to come in from Boston but his flight was cancelled so he flew to Cincinnati in an effort to fly to Paris. On arriving he found all airports in France had been closed. It's particularly frustrating because a lot of planning had gone on to make the visit successful."

Cheadle's Yeshurun Synagogue was forced to replace Israeli Knesset member Rabbi Aharon Adler, a leading Israeli modern orthodox rabbi, as speaker for its Yom Ha'atzmaut Shabbaton on Saturday. Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks was stranded in the USA where he was receiving an award from Princeton University. And former prime minister, Tony Blair, was due to return last weekend from a visit to the Middle East in his role as Quartet Representative to help the Labour Party in campaigning - but was stuck in Jerusalem.

British Ort has reported nine members of its London marathon team, scheduled to fly from South Africa, have been grounded, leaving only Tom Carver from Hendon to run alone. "It's quite daunting," he said. "Being the only guy running for ORT will increase my focus on achieving it. I've really got to pull my finger out."

Last updated: 2:53pm, April 22 2010