Minnesota nonprofit helps Americans get out of Israel

Minnesota nonprofit helps Americans get out of Israel

Minnesota nonprofit helps Americans get out of Israel

A Minnesota nonprofit is helping Americans stranded in Israel find a way home.

The American Service was initially launched last year to help resettle Ukrainian refugees. Now, executive director Aswar Rahman is in Tel Aviv, helping facilitate an evacuation route for American travelers, including some who have been stuck at the airport for days.

Major airlines started suspending flights in and out of Israel after the nation declared war, following a massive attack by Hamas on Saturday.

“Ever since I touched down on Monday, it has just been a whirlwind,” Rahman said. “At the Ben Gurion Airport, which is the main airport for Israel, there is a high level of confusion, chaos and frustration. I’ve talked to people who have spent days just trying to navigate the madness because every airline keeps changing what their plans are going to be.”

Rahman said he realized his nonprofit could help connect exhausted travelers to alternate options.

“I think I noticed a missed opportunity here,” Rahman said. “I know I can help solve problems and it was just one piece of the puzzle that I saw.”

Rahman said if he could shuttle people from Israel to neighboring Jordan, they could travel out of the Amman airport, where flights are still running.

The route he is using to get to Jordan includes a little-known border checkpoint, called the Jordan River Crossing.

“We figured out no one even thinks about using this land crossing in regular times because it’s an isolated crossing between Israel and Jordan. We didn’t expect to find an entire alternate evacuation route for a large group of people but I think we just found it and we’re putting it to good use,” Rahman said.

He set up a table at the airport in Israel to help alert people to this option and offer trustworthy transportation options through taxis and shuttle services.

“There is a lot of hesitation based on the complicated history of this region but in reality, it’s extremely safe and we provide an escort all the way through, not that it’s even necessary, but we want to make sure people have that feeling of safety,” Rahman said.

It is about a five-hour trek from the airport in Israel to the airport in Jordan.

He said their nonprofit has now helped dozens of Americans get out of Israel.

Rahman said most people have decided to pay their own way for the ride but the American Service does have money set aside for those who cannot afford it.

“There’s a lot of hurt and anger right now in Israel and I think to be able to show up and say ‘We’re here to help, we might be able to help you and we’ll try our darndest to do it,’ I think that act of kindness is going a long way,” Rahman said.

Rahman added that he worries about what could happen in the Middle East in the coming days, given the expected ground invasion and unpredictable violence.

“The big concern is ‘What happens when the fighting re-escalates?’ Every sign points to things are about to get a lot messier,” Rahman said. “Time is not on our side here so we’re moving faster than we probably thought possible. I plan on staying here as long as needed.”

If you know any Americans who are currently trying to get out of Israel, Rahman urges people to reach out to their organization.