Israel Struggles to Bring Home Kids Stranded by Coronavirus

Foreign adventures are a right of passage for Israelis, but coronavirus has left many of our kids stranded

By Anat Schneider | | Topics: Coronavirus
Israel struggles to bring home our kids stranded by coronavirus.
Photo: Avshalom Sasson/Flash90

It is an integral part of the Israeli life cycle to travel abroad after completing military service.

Often times, newly released soldiers will find jobs and work for a period of about six months to save up enough money. Then, they sketch out their path, pack their bags and set off to embark on a life-changing journey abroad—sometimes in the Far East and sometimes in South America—for a period of about six months to a year.

Tamir served in an elite combat unit in the IDF. Upon finishing his service, he found employment working at Jerusalem’s famous Mahane Yehuda Market. Once he earned enough money for his trip, he said farewell to his family and boarded a plane to South America. As often happens, Tamir met a number of friends along the way while traveling. Many of them are also Israelis enjoying their post-army backpacking experience. They traveled together visiting a number of beautiful countries on the continent. The last country they visited was Brazil when their trip was suddenly interrupted by the COVID-19 crisis.

Tamir and his friends in Brazil

Upon first hearing about the global crisis, they didn’t give it too much thought. They thought, like many around the globe, that it was something that would quickly pass by. Little did they know that it would probably serve as the most unforgettable experience of their trip—for better or for worse.

Tamir and his friends tried to buy tickets back home to Israel, but their flight was canceled time after time. They spent a fortune on purchasing three plane tickets, but they know that after these cancellations, it’s likely that they won’t be seeing a refund.

Much anxiety is building up among the group because each day they’re unsure whether the Brazilian airspace is going to close. As of now, only one flight to Israel has left Brazil since the beginning of the crisis, however, there were no available seats left. Hopefully, they will be able to board the flight that is set to leave tomorrow.

Tamir’s sister wrote a heartfelt post addressed to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on social media that is worth reading:

“The Corona crisis – Ministry of Foreign Affairs

“My brother and his friends are stuck in Brazil without any way of getting back to Israel. All of their flights were cancelled at the last minute. They’re all former combat soldiers and gave their lives to Israel’s security. It’s now the country’s turn to give back to them. We are asking the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to do anything they can to bring them back home.

“In Peru you were able to bring Israelis home. Please do the same for those stuck in Brazil.”

Through my brother Ofer’s connections in the government, he’s been making heroic efforts to bring his son home. He knows Dudu Amsalam, a Likud minister in the current government, and he immediately answered to Ofer’s call and reached out to Israel’s Foreign Minister, Yisrael Katz. The department within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that is responsible for Israeli citizens stranded abroad contacted Ofer and assured him that they are going to do all they can to help bring Tamir home.

Israel’s national airline El Al has recently been sending a number of flights to return Israeli’s stranded in foreign countries as more countries have now closed their borders and airspaces. Ofer and Limor’s first priority is to bring their son home as any loving parents would at this time.

Ofer told his son Tamir after expressing his concern to his father about wasting money on flights, “Even if it will cost me more than 100,000 Shekels to bring you home, I would do it in a heartbeat. Money is the least of my concerns right now.”


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