By Chelsea Beimfohr
FAYETTEVILLE, Georgia (WANF) — Nearly 1,000 U.S. citizens have departed Israel on U.S. chartered planes, but some Americans didn’t wait for the government to step in, including a Metro Atlanta teen.
17-year-old Lyla Caplan attends public school in Fayette County. This semester she chose to study abroad in Israel.
“There’s like no Jewish community here and I thought this would just be like a great opportunity for me to be surrounded by people who are like me,” Caplan said.
But on Oct. 7 she woke up to sirens.
“Nothing can prepare you for what we experienced,” Caplan said. “We woke up to counselors banging on our doors and the sirens going off. We heard the iron dorm intercepting missiles.”
Meanwhile, another Metro Atlanta woman was also in Israel when Hamas launched their initial attack.
Cheri Levitan lives in Sandy Springs and is the CEO of Kenes Tours, a Tel Aviv-based travel agency.
Shortly after the terrorist attack began, she got a call from the Jewish National Fund asking for her help in evacuating more than 100 kids from the Alexander Muss High School, including Lyla Caplan.
“The senior leadership at JNF said Cheri we need to get these kids home. Can you help us get these kids home,” Levitan said.
As Levitan worked behind the scenes to charter a flight for the kids, Caplan and her classmates made care packages for Israeli soldiers from below-ground bomb shelters.
Within a few days, they were on a flight from Israel to Rome, and then back to America. In total Levitan says she helped 107 students and three chaperones escape from the war.
“Fate. It just worked. And I was just happy to be part of it and happy to make it happen,” Levitan said.
It’s something that Caplan and many other families will never forget. And even though their children are home safe, they’re still coping with what’s going on in the Middle East.
“There’s a lot of antisemitism everywhere and you have to bring awareness. And it’s all you can do, especially when you’re this far away from a war zone,” Caplan said.
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