Israelis Stranded Abroad in Lockdown Petition High Court

YERUSHALAYIM -
The empty arrival hall at Ben Gurion Airport. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

The plight of hundreds of Israelis stranded abroad by the abrupt closure of Ben Gurion Airport on January 25 due to the coronavirus is being brought before the High Court.

A petition on behalf of about 50 of them was filed on Wednesday. While the humanitarian issues are manifest, it was not immediately clear what legal issues the court would asked to decide on given that the government has broad authority in time of emergency.

Most of the cases reportedly involve people who traveled abroad due to the death or sickness of a family member, or those who fly regularly for work, and lone soldiers.

“Israel is an amazing country that sends its Air Force to rescue hostages in Entebbe and airlifted thousands of Ethiopian Jews in 24 hours,” said former MK Dov Lipman, who has been in touch with some of the stranded.

“But there are times when our leaders seem to lose their minds and make decisions that run counter to our country’s ethos. This is one of those moments. There is no more basic right than being able to return home, and the government must reverse this decision immediately – while requiring testing and quarantine for those returning,” he said.

Citizens who find themselves stuck abroad who are in need of urgent medical treatment, or are first-degree relatives of someone who died in Israel, or who are defined as critical workers, or those on government delegations can apply to a special committee headed by Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz, according to a statement earlier this week.

But the process for qualified reentry is not running smoothly, according to Blue and White MK Michal Cotler-Wunsh, who said she herself has received almost a hundred requests for assistance.

“The government has asked citizens to apply for an entry permit to return home without stating the processing time for such applications – and without providing any information regarding what flights they will be able to board once their permits are received,” said Cotler-Wunsh.

The government was scheduled to meet on Thursday evening to make decisions related to the lockdown, and the airport reopening was said to be on the agenda. If so, the stranded Israelis might be able to board a flight within the next few days.