Carmel man returns from Israel hours before FAA ban

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HAMILTON COUNTY - A Carmel man is home after spending three weeks in Israel and catching a flight back to the U.S. hours before the FAA suspended all U.S. flights to and from the country's biggest airport.

Sammy Katz, a junior at Indiana University, landed in Chicago on Monday. He spoke with FOX59 in his Carmel home about the trip he'd never forget.

"These three weeks were interesting. It wasn't the vacation Israel I was expecting," he said. “To live a life feeling like that these (rockets) could be going off is... I couldn’t even imagine it. That’s why I’m so fortunate to be here."

Katz arrived just as tensions between Israelis and Palestinians were flaring up. He had to quickly learn where the nearest shelter was wherever he went.

He remembers the day he saw the violence up close and realized he was in a completely different world.

“I was in Tel Aviv right next to the beach and a siren went off. And so we went and found a safe area and a rocket was shot over to the right and a rocket was shot out of the sky over to the left. And I heard both of those and then a second later I felt a ground shaking boom and we didn’t see anything where it was. I took a step out and I looked up and I saw right above my head was a mushroom cloud. The Iron Dome had shot three missiles, one being right above our heads.”

While the constant threat was stressful, Katz said he always knew he was going to be protected by the Israeli government. However, his return was becoming questionable.

“At one point they had only one flight leaving every 30 minutes so they could properly protect each airplane that was leaving the area,” he explained.

It is a sad reality Katz said that he experienced up close, but one he'd never give back. He also wants to return to Israel one day.

“I’m glad I had these experiences. It helped me grow as a person.”

The FAA is expected to announce whether or not it will extend its suspension by noon Wednesday.

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