Concern grows for Hoosiers in Israel during FAA flight suspensions

INDIANAPOLIS - Concern was growing for an Indiana group of religious tourists who flew to Israel just before all U.S. airlines were grounded from leaving or entering the country’s main airport.

The leader of the group said they were safe and were at least 60 miles from any major fighting. But friends and family at home worried as the Federal Aviation Administration continued to halt travel into and out of Tel Aviv.

Richard Sontag and his company, Tekton Ministries, coordinate pilgrimages for religious groups. He said he was worried about the group from Indiana.

"Had we thought that there was really a concern, at least on Monday, of them getting there or coming back, you know we would have canceled that group," Sontag said.

When the group of 20 left at the beginning of the week, they didn't know the FAA would soon ground all U.S. flights into and out of Tel Aviv.

"That was the second to last plane that you know made it in to Tel Aviv," Sontag said.

The FAA grounded flights for an initial 24 hours on Tuesday after a rocket landed within a mile of the Ben Gurion Airport.

On Wednesday, the FAA extended that suspension for another 24 hours.

The group of Catholic Hoosiers was at a hotel about an hour away from the Gaza Strip. They were led by Father Jonathan Meyer from The Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

"God brought us here for a reason and we trust our travel guides and our tour guides and the airlines to make decisions about our safety, and right now everything seems to be completely fine," Meyer said.

Sontag said he felt the weight of that responsibility. He said now was a good time to have plan B in mind to get the group of Hoosiers home safely.

"We do have about six or seven days before we could implement it, but you know flying out of Jordan for example, in Amman, is a very simple solution for them," Sontag said.

The group was planning to stick to their 11-day travel itinerary which meant they had nine days before any potential flight restrictions would become an obstacle.

Israeli officials insisted the airport was secure, crediting the missile defense system known as the Iron Dome.

Tuesday’s rocket was the first to land in the vicinity of the airport since the start of the two-week-long war.

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