PEABODY — Buses ferrying Jewish teens fresh from the Robert I. Lappin Youth to Israel Adventure pulled up to Temple Ner Tamid Wednesday around noon, two days earlier than planned.
The 101 teens on the trip were coming home in waves due to the escalating violence between Hamas militants in Gaza and Israel in the south of the country.
This second round of buses carried some jet-lagged teens and counselors from in and around the North Shore who, despite the change in plans, said they had the time of their lives.
“It was just really, like, amazing,” said Max Barash of Middleton shortly after he arrived.
He never heard an air-raid siren, never had to find shelter and never felt in danger, he said.
“We knew,” Max said when asked if the group was kept up-to-date on the escalating violence. “I wasn’t that concerned,” he said. “I knew they would keep us as safe as possible.”
During the trip, Israel continued to bombard militants, and militants continued to fire rockets into Israel amid concerns of an Israeli ground invasion of Gaza.
The conflict confined the trip to the north, giving the kids a different perspective on the country and a different experience than prior Y2I trips. The program is a fully subsidized community trip to Israel that Lappin started in 1971 as a way to build Jewish pride in and around the North Shore. More than 2,100 teens have participated over the past 40 years.
Five flights brought the teens back to the United States, those gathered at the temple said. Departures began Tuesday, according to the trip’s blog. The last group of kids was scheduled to be home early Thursday morning. Max said his flight left at 12:30 a.m. Wednesday, Israel time.
This year’s trip started July 6 and was scheduled to run through Friday, according to Y2I’s website. Before the group left, Debbie Coltin, Lappin Foundation’s executive director who was also on the trip, posted an update to alleviate concerns about the growing violence.