Just too dangerous: Milwaukee teenagers' three-week trip to Israel is cancelled

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Growing tensions and continuing conflict in Israel are grabbing headlines this week, and the violence is costing some Milwaukee teenagers the chance to take a once-in-a-lifetime trip.

Images coming out of Israel these days show rocket launches and airstrikes -- and the fighting means some local teens won't be able to take a trip they've been planning for many years.

"Every year, our community blesses us with the trust and the opportunity to take a group of teenagers incoming juniors in high school to Israel on a three week trip," Mark Shapiro, the executive director of the Harry and Rose Samson Family JCC said.

The Jewish Community Center's program starts with a group of Israeli teens who come to experience Milwaukee's Jewish community.

"Then our teens fly back to Israel and then stay at their homes in-home hospitality back in Tiberius," Shapiro said.

This year's program has already seen the Israeli teens come and go, but their 23 North American counterparts -- nine of them from Milwaukee, won't be following them to the Middle East.

"Our kids -- unfortunately our trip was needed to be cancelled in light of the current events that are happening in Israel," Shapiro said.

FOX6 News spoke by phone with a Marquette University law professor who just returned to the United States from Israel. She described what the recent fighting is like for those on the ground.

"You see what looks like total normalcy most of the time -- and then the sirens go off and that is obviously not normal at all and that's scary and that's tense. I've been to Israel many, many times and you walk around. This is the first time ever I've walked around with a pit in my stomach. You're just nervous. You're on edge," Andrea Schneider said.

Shapiro says the decision to cancel the trip was both one of the most difficult and one of the easiest decisions he's ever made. But he also had to break the news to his teenage daughter who was scheduled to make the trek.

"Being the person who had to make that decision was one of the hardest things, but once we couldn't reach the guarantee of safety and the guarantee of quality then the decision was made itself," Shapiro said.

Shapiro says this is the second time one of these trips has been cancelled -- though it's been a number of years since that last happened.

This year's students will instead embark on a 16-day trip that will take them to Philadelphia, New York and Washington, D.C. -- among other stops.