sderot kids 224.88.
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A modern Orthodox synagogue in New York City hosted a group of 10 Israeli youth from Sderot at its Monday night Tisha Be'av prayers, which, as part of the mourning service, focused on the ongoing threats to the city.
The group of 16- and 17-year-olds were flown to New York by El Al for a three-day tour of the city. The move was part of a celebration to inaugurate Sderot, one of two new aircraft the airline has added to its fleet.
In early July, El Al announced the name of the new aircraft and asked Sderot Mayor Eli Moyal to choose 10 youth from the city to join the El Al flight.
Kehilath Jeshurun, the Upper East side synagogue that hosted the group, has been raising money for residents of Sderot ever since one of the congregants, an amateur photographer, brought back photos of the damage wreaked in the city. These photographs lined the walls of the synagogue Monday night.
So far, the synagogue has sent close to $70,000 dollars to Rabbi Dov Fridel, head of the city's hesder yeshiva, to be distributed to the yeshiva and to businesses and residents in need of help. Rabbi Haskel Lookstein of Kehilath Jeshurun said by the end of Tisha Be'av, the synagogue would have raised a total of close to $80,000 for Sderot. A third of the funds are earmarked for securing the yeshiva.
"Our Tisha Be'av service is not just about the destruction of the Temple, but about all the tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people since the year 70 right up to the last casualty in Sderot," said Lookstein. "This year we are focused on another place where rockets are falling and nobody seems to care very much. We want our people to care, and then do something to help."
Since the start of the second Intifada, the synagogue has taken 16 missions to Israel.
A few of the visiting Sderot teenagers shared stories about living under the threat of Kassam rockets.
"It is hard for us to be here while our families are there," said Nitzan Peretz. "It's very difficult there, but we hope it will be quiet."
After three days of tourist activities - including a double-decker bus tour of the city, a visit to the United Nations with Ambassador Dan Gillerman, a screening of the latest Harry Potter movie, plus a performance of Mamma Mia - the teenagers will join a group of El Al executives and employees and return to Israel.
Sderot will arrive at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York from Seattle and fly non-stop to Israel on Wednesday night. The second Boeing 777, called Kiryat Shmona, will begin service next month.
The new planes have been specially designed for El Al, and have modern, wide spacious cabins, which El Al says are among the most advanced in aviation. New additions include state-of-the-art personal digital entertainment systems for all passengers, and adjustable wide flat-bed seats that recline to a full horizontal position for first-class travelers.