Israeli reservists living aboard are struggling to find their way back home now that Israel has mobilized around 360,000 reservists as it prepares for a ground invasion of Gaza, the Associated Press reported.
Israel National News reported last week that Google searches on flights to Israel surged after the country formally declared war on Hamas after the October 7 surprise terrorist attacks.
Israeli reservists, some of whom either work or live abroad or were out of the country at the time of the attacks, have been called up to fight.
A 37-year-old Israeli Air Force pilot and reservist working for a tech company in New York said as soon as he was called up, he left his family to return to his squadron. He told Reuters that he would never forgive himself if he remained in his Upper West Side apartment to watch the war from a distance.
While most major airlines had suspended flights to and from Israel, some reservists were trying to charter flights instead.
According to the Associated Press when New York businessman Ofer Cohen learned that about 200 reservists had been vacationing in South America when they were called up but were unable to get a flight, he began raising hundreds of thousands of dollars to charter a plane to pick them up and fly them home.
Eric Fingerhut, a former US congressman who now heads The Jewish Federations of North America, told the Associated Press that he isn’t surprised that people are wanting to help.
Fingerhut said given the number of reservists living and working abroad, getting them to Israel “has been a priority.”
Even Israeli Americans who aren’t reservists want to go to Israel and volunteer in any way they can.
Los Angeles construction worker Yaakov Swisa, a former Israeli soldier, told the Associated Press that after he learned that his army roommate was among the people brutally murdered at the musical festival, he had no choice but to return and fight.
Adam Jacobs, an 18-year-old college student from New Jersey told the Associated Press that after learning that his cousin was among the dead, he decided to fly to Israel to do volunteer work like shuttling supplies, explaining that he wouldn’t be able to live with himself if he remained in the United States.