JERUSALEM (CNS) — With most international airlines canceling their flights into Israel’s Ben Gurion airport after several Hamas missiles were launched toward the area July 22, Anton Mousallam has only three words on his mind: cancellation, cancellation, cancellation.
The Bethlehem Catholic tour operator said four large pilgrim groups scheduled to arrive in the coming weeks canceled, and he had Palestinian customers who were scheduled to fly out on family vacations to Europe but were unable to do so. Though their airline tickets might be refunded, most of their reservations at hotels and attractions in Europe were nonrefundable, he said.
Mousallam said he was scrambling to try to find his customers flights out through Jordan or one of the few airlines still flying out of Ben Gurion, but everything was booked.
“Today there are no flights abroad (available). I don’t know what will happen,” he told Catholic News Service July 23. “This is difficult; all the deposits have been paid and we have to reimburse our customers. We are praying for peace for all people. Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Gaza, Tel Aviv … families are suffering all over. It is not good for anybody. But we are optimists and know peace will reign on earth someday.”
The House of Abraham (Maison d’Abraham) guesthouse supported by Caritas France has been empty since the start of Israeli airstrikes in early July, said financial director Johnny Awad. Three groups of 150 people who were scheduled to arrive have canceled, and he only has reservations for October.
“This season is already lost,” he said. “It is this way all over Jerusalem, there are cancellations. We have expenses but no income.”
He said the guesthouse would pay its 15 employees their salaries for July, but would need to make some cuts in August with no income coming in.
An unidentified priest at the Church of All Nations at the foot of the Mount of Olives said he had seen no change in the number of pilgrims at the holy site.
“Everyone who is scheduled to be here has been here,” he said July 23.
Israeli Tourism Minister Uzi Landau opened a situation room and held consultations with the foreign and transport ministers. He told officials to offer accommodation solutions to any of the thousands of tourists and pilgrims whose flights were canceled and whose airlines were not providing them with accommodations. The government also opened a 24-hour hotline for tourists experiencing difficulties in Israel as a result of the flight cancellations.
In a press release, the ministry that 209 flights would operate out of Ben Gurion airport July 23. The same day, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration extended its ban on flights to Ben Gurion for another 24 hours.
In a time of crisis CatholicPhilly.com keeps the information flowing
During the current coronavirus crisis, you can help CatholicPhilly.com deliver the kind of news people need to know about the Catholic Church, especially in the Philadelphia region, and the world in which we live ― every day.
Budgets are tight at this time, and CatholicPhilly's is no different than those of most families. We make sure your donation in any amount will go a long way toward continuing our mission to inform, form in the Catholic faith and inspire the thousands of readers who visit every month.
Here is how you can help:
- A $100 gift allows us to present award-winning photos of Catholic life in our neighborhoods.
- A $50 gift enables us to cover a news event in a local parish, school or Catholic institution.
- A $20 gift lets us obtain solid faith formation resources that can deepen your spirituality and knowledge of the faith.
- A small, automated monthly donation means you can support us continually and easily.
Won't you consider making a gift today?
Please join in the church's vital mission of communications by offering a gift in whatever amount that you can ― a single gift of $40, $50, $100, or more, or a monthly donation. Your gift will strengthen the fabric of our entire Catholic community.
Make your donation by credit card here:
Or make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103