A Mako report at the beginning of the week said that about 100,000 Israelis are stranded around the world and the Foreign Ministry is making efforts to bring as many home as possible before all flights are canceled altogether. El Al is continuing to operate a few flights for this purpose and tourist companies are mobilizing to assist the stranded Israelis. The first plane will leave on Thursday.
“It’s recommended that all Israeli citizens abroad who are planning to return to Israel to check with the airlines and travel agencies if their intended flight will take place and if necessary, to make sure to book an alternative flight through destinations that continue to operate flights to Israel,” Israel’s Foreign Ministry stated.
The problem is that every day that passes brings more canceled flights and flying to Israel seems almost an impossible task. Israeli parents of children on trips in the Far East, mainly India, who called the Foreign Ministry, received recommendations to tell their children to travel by car, bus or train to nearby countries and search for a flight to Israel from there and look for alternative flights.
The goal is for Israelis to travel to cities where El Al is still operating flights, such as New York, Johannesburg, London and Paris, and fly home from there.
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A group of Israeli travelers who were in Cape Verde, Africa off the coast of Senegal was told to shorten their trip and return to Israel as soon as possible. Since their original flight home flight had been canceled, they were told to take an internal flight in Cape Verde, from there to Lisbon, and from there to Amsterdam where they could catch an El Al flight back to Israel.
As South American countries close their borders to foreigners to stem the tide of the spreading coronavirus, hundreds of Israelis are stranded in Peru, with airlines demanding about $3,500 for a flight to Israel.
Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz has arranged with El Al for Israel’s national airline to fly Israelis back to Israel free of charge.
“I spoke with El Al management and it was agreed that it would act to solve the problem and return the young Israelis from Peru to their worried families in Israel,” Katz wrote on Twitter on Tuesday.
“The Foreign Ministry will coordinate the details with El Al and with the Peruvian authorities. El Al’s longstanding tradition as a national airline that mobilizes to provide assistance at times of emergency continues even now.”
Israelis in Peru are not the only ones stranded, with Israeli media reporting on Israelis around the world grappling with grounded planes, canceled flights and closing borders. A Channel 13 News report said that some Israeli backpackers have to pay steep fees to ensure a flight home to Israel.
Noa Margolis in Brazil said that the current situation is “chaos” and “travelers are searching for ways to get home.”
“The prices [of flights] are through the roof,” said Bar Levy in the Philippines. “I have to wait at the airport for the slight chance they’ll book me on a flight that might get canceled.”
Maya Bergman in Australia said: “I was waiting on the telephone for an hour and a half with Turkish Airlines’ answering service and never got an answer. I’m just trapped here. Travel agents are saying that flights might be canceled tomorrow also.”
Meanwhile, in India, hundreds of Israeli backpackers report that local hostels are refusing to host them due to fear they are carrying the coronavirus, a Mako report said.
Many Israelis already in India, which has closed its borders to foreign citizens, decided to continue traveling in the country and wait for the crisis to die down before returning to Israel but they didn’t consider that they might not be able to find a place to sleep. Indian hostels and guesthouses, especially in southern Italy are refusing to host Israelis, afraid that the Israelis coming from northern India are carrying the virus. Most of the 147 confirmed cases in India are in the north of the country.
“We were in the north and when we traveled to the south, the guesthouse owners refused to rent us rooms out of fear we’re carrying the coronavirus,” one Israeli backpacker told Mako. “They’re not willing to take the risk and my friends and I are stuck here and we don’t know what to do. We tried other guesthouses and they also refused. We were ready to pay more money but they asked us not to come in.”
More and more Israeli backpackers in India, who heard that guesthouses in the south are refusing to host foreign travelers are forced to stay in the north or search for alternative arrangements to return home to Israel.
“The panic has begun in India as well,” Yael, an Israeli traveler in northern India said. “The guesthouse owners in the north have begun to refuse the requests of Israelis and other foreign citizens to rent rooms. Everyone is hysterical here. Some of the guesthouse owners are also taking advantage of the situation to raise prices by hundreds of percent. Some of the backpackers are afraid to remain in the street and are willing to pay a lot of money for a room. The guesthouse owners claim that it’s a government decision and they’re not willing to take any risk.”
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)