More than a week into the crisis, many families are still struggling to get out. Many spent thousands of dollars and boarded flights with multiple connections to get to safety.
There were many emotional reunions at Newark Liberty International Airport as parents and children waited for family members to return.
Many were in Israel celebrating Sukkot when Hamas launched a surprise attack that killed hundreds.
Families described their fear while hunkering down in bomb shelters, frantically trying to book flights, and having multiple flights canceled.
Those who made it back on Sunday’s 5:15 a.m. flight to Newark were relieved to be home.
“We’ve seen rockets going off in the air, smoke rising. But there’s lots of hurting people over there, lots of refugees,” said Esther Hamilton, from Indiana.
“It’s crazy. It’s so scary right now, seeing the news,” said Mai Nitzon, from Israel.
“I was so worried. I couldn’t stop crying, seeing the images, what’s going on in my country. And I had to bring her over,” said Liron Nitzan, from Manhattan.
“The people there are pulling together. They are incredible, and they are doing so much to help each other that it feels very warm and very protected,” said traveler Livia Dunkin.
Following setback after setback, a family of nine from Monsey, New York, safely made it out of Israel after their month-long trip, taking a charter flight to London then to John F. Kennedy International Airport.
“We were scared to get out, and we couldn’t get back to New York,” one woman said.
“The flight back was just… difficult,” Brooklyn resident Nancy Fink said.
Fink spent the 12-hour flight still processing the conflict. She feared for her safety just getting to the airport in Tel Aviv.
“Saying, ‘OK, I’m gonna leave my house, I’m gonna go stay in a public area, I’m gonna sit there and wait, and whatever’s gonna happen is gonna happen,’ kind of was the scariest part of it,” Fink said.
“I spent my trip crying basically. Every hour or so I was like ‘is this really happening,” Rego Park resident Dr. Michael Richter said.
Richter from says he had no choice but to leave his family in Israel to get back to his practice in Queens. He was able to get a direct flight home because he booked it a while ago.
“What’s it like having to leave?” CBS New York’s Kristie Keleshian asked.
“It’s the hardest thing I ever had to do,” Richter said.Eliya Bivas is in Cyprus now thanks to a charter flight. She, her grandma and roommate got out of Tel Aviv.
“We all wanna do everything we can to help, but at the same time, you have to put your safety first,” Bivas said.
Finding a flight out of Israel continues to be a struggle.
“Everything was either extremely expensive or not soon enough. Like, it would be in like two weeks or like in a week and a half, and by then, it’s not safe to stay there that long,” Bivas said.
A number of airlines continue to cancel or suspend flights from Israel. Delta is not flying to or from Tel Aviv through Oct. 31. American suspended operations to Tel Aviv through Dec. 4. United also canceled direct flights.
Typically, there are more than a dozen daily flights to and from Tel Aviv at our local airports.