Flights between Israel and U.S. delayed due to Sandy

Flights between Israel and the United States continue to be delayed as superstorm Sandy continues to batter America's northeast coast.

Thousands of Israeli airline passengers had their flights to the United States canceled on Monday and Tuesday.

Israelis trying to get home remained stranded in New York, New Jersey and the D.C. area as well.

In all  more than 14,000 flights reportedly have been canceled due to Sandy.

Passengers will be able to take a different flight or get their money back under a new law on flight delays.

Ynet reported on Jacob, a young religious resident of Jerusalem, whose wedding is scheduled for Thursday in New York.  Flights from Tel Aviv to the East Coast for Jacob and 30 of his family members have been  delayed since Sunday. The groom and his family are concerned that the wedding may not take place on the scheduled day.

Israel grounds flights, thousands stranded at Ben Gurion Airport

Thousands of passengers have been stranded at Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport because of a jet fuel contamination problem.

According to Israeli media reports, a malfunction was discovered in the fuel filters at the airport more than a week ago. An unidentified source told reporters that a filter clog was discovered in an Arkia Airlines plane and was covered up “for financial reasons.” The source noted that such problems “could be disastrous.”

The Israel Airport Authority is investigating, according to reports.

Airport authorities on Thursday halted all refueling of aircraft, grounding dozens of planes. All flights into Israel have been diverted to Cyprus for refueling before they can take off again for Israel, creating enormous delays. Twenty-nine planes have been grounded, including 23 indefinitely because they do not have enough fuel to reach Cyprus for refueling, Ben Gurion Airport manager Shmuel Kendel told Ynet.

Small airports in Eilat and Haifa also were affected by the fuel contamination, Ynet reported, as they use the same jet fuel as Ben Gurion. 

Earlier suspicions of terrorist links are being discounted, new reports say. Paz Aviation Assets said Thursday that an unidentified oily substance in the fueling terminals caused the filter contamination. The substance is being sent for testing.

A Ben Gurion Airport official, who requested anonymity, told reporters that similar contamination had been discovered five years ago and the system had not been fixed.

Delays are expected for many flights into Israel and all departing flights from the country.

Material Girl Nixes Israel Dates

Has the Material Girl become the new target for terrorists? According to Britain’s The Sun, Madonna cancelled the Israel leg of her Reinvention Tour after terrorists allegedly threatened to kill her and her children, Lourdes and Rocco, if she performed in Israel.

The threats reportedly came in the form of a series of poison-pen letters that were sent to Madonna’s Los Angeles office. According to The Sun, Madonna first thought she was being targeted because of her kabbalah beliefs, but then she realized that she was being threatened because she represented all the things that these terrorists hate about the West. The terrorists were reportedly Palestinian, and Madonna took them seriously enough to cancel her three September concerts at Tel Aviv’s Bloomfield Stadium — her first concerts in Israel since 1993 — because they knew intimate details about members of her staff.

But is it true?

Not quite, said Madonna’s representative at Warner Bros. Records.

“The Israel dates were never confirmed,” a rep from publicist Liz Rosenberg’s office told The Journal. “She was never threatened.”

Skipping the Holy Land, Madonna will show the rest of the world her new and improved self, made more refined, perhaps, through her very public association with the controversial Kabbalah Centre.

According to Madonna fan Denis Ferrara, who was quoted in Liz Smith’s New York Post gossip column, the concerts of the Reinvention Tour will have “no crotch-grabbing, pointed bosoms or pointless profanity from the star.”

Ferrara said Madonna was still an artist who wanted to amuse and engage, but, “She seems, however, to have put Shock — for so long her random companion — to bed. She never really needed him.”

Left Hanging

Sharon Kupferman, a junior at Cal State Northridge, was one of 11 students left "hanging in the air" last fall, when the statewide university system abruptly canceled its overseas study program in Israel.

She is 20 years old, majoring in child development, with a minor in Jewish studies, whose family lives in Diamond Bar. She has been active in B’nai B’rith, Hillel and Jewish Community Centers and has always wanted to study in Israel.

Kupferman, who has many relatives in Israel and has often visited the country, knew that studying at Hebrew University in Jerusalem "would further my education and my love of the Jewish community and Israel," she wrote via e-mail.

She had finished her summer Hebrew language ulpan and was getting ready for the regular fall semester, when one or two days before the start of classes she was told about Cal State’s cancellation of the program.

"Everyone was left hanging in the air," Kupferman recalled. "We were to go home immediately, and they would do all they could to have us leave immediately."

The Cal State international program director "was not very nice to us at all … and unhelpful," Kupferman complained.

Her parents now became responsible for her tuition cost, previously assumed by Cal State, amounting to $3,000-$4,000. (The money was later refunded by Cal State, together with all of her other expenses.)

Despite the considerable pressure, all but one of the 10 other students decided to stay in Israel and continue their studies in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv.

"I knew that nothing would make me leave," she wrote. "I have a supportive family, as well as relatives in Israel."

Kupferman transferred to Tel Aviv University for the fall semester and returned to Hebrew University for the current spring semester. She praised both universities for their help in adjusting tuition fees and course credits.

As for personal concerns, "I can say that I feel completely safe in Israel," she wrote. "I believe as long as you are careful and stay away from the dangerous places, you are fine. It is like any other country that has bad areas you stay away from. Here people know who is the enemy and are aware of the situation."

The decision by Kupferman and her friends to stay in Israel got a mixed reaction. "Cal State was not thrilled, but the universities here were happy," she wrote. "We got mixed emotions from friends and family."

For the future, Kupferman plans to stay involved with Israel and the American Jewish community. One choice, after finishing graduate school, is "to return to Israel, which is a high priority on my list, and teach English or something along those lines," she wrote. "If I stay in the United States, I will become an active educator in the Jewish community … I have not chosen a specific path. I am leaving my options open."