British Jews making aliyah stranded after Israel closes airspace

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British Jews making aliyah stranded after Israel closes airspace

One family has been left homeless after Israel closed its airspace while another has been separated for months.

El Al Boeing 787 Dreamliner arrives for a welcome ceremony after his landing at Ben Gurion International Airport, near Tel Aviv on August 23, 2017. Photo by: Nimrod Glikman - JINIPIX
El Al Boeing 787 Dreamliner arrives for a welcome ceremony after his landing at Ben Gurion International Airport, near Tel Aviv on August 23, 2017. Photo by: Nimrod Glikman - JINIPIX

British Jews preparing to make aliyah have been left in limbo after selling their homes and leaving their jobs but being unable to travel to Israel.

Israeli citizens have also been left stranded in the UK, as rescue flights are only being offered from Frankfurt, after Israel closed its airspace.

A group of those affected have sent letters in protest both to the minister for transport, Miri Regev, and ambassador Tzipi Hotovely, demanding direct rescue flights from London.

Travelling to Frankfurt involves greater risk to health, and the potential for being stranded in Germany, states a petition over the issue. Israelis are being ignored by the consulate in London over the issue, it claims.

Yaniv Ben-Dahan, an Israeli citizen who owns a business in Manchester, has not been able to see his wife and children in Israel for nearly three months.

He flew to the UK in December before catching Covid, leaving him ill for six weeks. In that time Ben Gurion airport closed, leaving him trapped.

“I’m not able to see my kids and wife, it’s been like an eternity, it’s been a long time. And I can’t work here, the shops are closed, there’s nothing for me to do,” he said.

Each time he gets permission from the government to fly back home, the flights are already gone, he said.

“Why are they not offering rescue flights from London?” he asked. “They should be operating rescue flights all over Europe.”

Yaniv Ben-Dahan has not seen his family for nearly three months

Brits hoping to make aliyah to Israel also feel abandoned, with one family telling Jewish News they were living out of suitcases because they had rented out their home in preparation for the move.

“We had everything tied up,” said the father in a London family-of-five, who did not wish to be named.

“We’ve been cut off on both sides. Our tenants moved into the house, but we were still here so we had to move out.

“We’ve been living out of suitcases with three kids in friends’ spare rooms. We’re homeless in our country.”

Another woman, who also asked to remain anonymous, has become so desperate she and her husband are considering chartering their own private plane to get to Israel.

“We’re in limbo,” said the semi-retired management consultant from London. “You have to provide reasons [for rescue flights] but making aliyah is not one of the listed reasons. You have to fill out a form in Hebrew but we’re not fluent speakers so it’s very difficult.

“All of us know they’re not going to open up [Ben Gurion] until after Pesach. Everything has been put in order to move, and then undone, and then redone, you’re on tenterhooks 24/7.”

Ohad Zemet, spokesman for the Israeli embassy, responded to questions about rescue flights from London by saying Israel was only allowing entry in “exceptional cases.”

“Since the start of the pandemic and even more so since the last restrictions were imposed, the embassy staff have been in touch with the Israeli and Jewish community in London,” he said.

“We witness the difficulties some have been experiencing and we hope the situation will improve.”

He said those wanting to make their case to the committee which authorises arrivals could find the link on the government website here.

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