WHY IT RATES: One of Israel’s leading tour operators reveals how some stranded tourists are navigating the COVID-19 crisis far from home. —Patrick Clarke, TravelPulse Senior Writer
Many people dream of visiting the Church of the Holy Sepulchre or the ancient fortress of Masada at least once in their lifetime.
Travelers who planned their trips to Israel in March 2020 put in hours of research finding a reputable tour company, picking out the chef restaurants they would dine at in Tel Aviv and dreaming about floating on their backs in the salty Dead Sea waters. It wasn’t long before their trip went awry.
Tourist Israel, one of Israel’s leading tour operators, touched base with tourists currently stuck in Israel to see how they’re faring during these difficult times.
Lukas, a traveler from Switzerland, had planned to spend three months traveling and volunteering in Israel. Within a month of his arrival, the Coronavirus broke out and the desert community where he was staying closed their doors. For the last few weeks, he’s been bunking with another volunteer in her apartment, weighing out his options. At the moment, there are no flights back to Switzerland. He worries that he will soon face financial struggles.
Many countries have closed their borders and shut down their airports. At the moment, only one flight is still operating out of Ben Gurion Airport to the United States on United Airlines. Flights to other parts of the world are few and far in between.
Tourists who have been traveling in Israel for an extended period of time are frantically trying to get extensions on their visas. Those who had just begun their trip at the start of the restrictions are now eagerly trying to find a way out.
Tourist Israel also spoke with an older couple from Ecuador who recently came to visit their daughter and see their grandson. They are currently stuck in Israel after Ecuador closed its borders and isn’t even allowing its citizens to return home.
While they were able to receive special permission from the embassy to re-enter the closed country, their airline could not book them a new flight until the beginning of May, and even that, they fear, may be canceled. They are disappointed not to have received a humanitarian ticket from their country, and they just want to go home.
Israel is recognized for staying loyal to citizens regardless of the cost and continues to be there for them during this difficult time, recently rescuing Israeli travelers in Peru, India and Africa who were unable to get home due to closed borders and airport shutdowns. There are also plans to rescue additional Israelis stuck across Asia.
However, not all countries are acting in the same manner, and thousands of people are still trapped in Israel, hoping and praying to find a way home.
SOURCE: Tourist Israel press release.
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