Thousands of Israelis Stuck Overseas as Travel Ban Continues

YERUSHALAYIM -
Ben Gurion airport stands empty after the government approved a shutdown of all incoming and outgoing air traffic in a bid to stop the spread of the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

Thousands of Israelis are still overseas awaiting special government approval to return, while the skies in Israel remain closed to commercial travel.

Since January 25 the airport has been closed, and now the reopening has been tentatively rescheduled for February 21.

An estimated 10,000 Israelis are currently stranded overseas, with applications for special permission to return being backlogged. In some cases, families have already been separated for weeks, and those stuck overseas suffer disruption in their lives as they are unable to return to their jobs.

Israir in Frankfurt is flying in one plane per day, so even those with permission are having a hard time finding a flight to come back.

The Health Ministry is adamant that those returning must quarantine in hotels, but there is not enough space in these facilities for all those currently left abroad.

“There is no capability at this time to receive thousands of Israelis at one time and therefore [citizens] are required to submit requests to the exceptions committee which is assisting in the prioritization of cases for who can return earlier, such as medical emergencies, humanitarian cases and so on,” said the ministry.