Israelis stuck in Dubai fume as others travel freely

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“I’ve been here for more than a month with my family,” said Charly Darwich, a Ra’anana resident. “I came here planning to take a two-week vacation…it’s been two weeks longer, with no end in sight.”

(L-R) Israeli tourists Charly Darwich and Jacob Melcer meet in Dubai. (photo credit: CHARLY DARWICH)

(L-R) Israeli tourists Charly Darwich and Jacob Melcer meet in Dubai.

(photo credit: CHARLY DARWICH)

As Israel’s airport closure continues, hundreds of Israelis are stuck in Dubai without a way to get back home. Many are fuming as they watch other groups get permission to travel with impunity.

Ben-Gurion Airport is closed until at least February 21, and possibly longer, as the government seeks to keep coronavirus mutations out of the country and pushes ahead with its countrywide vaccination campaign to achieve herd immunity. The unusually strict measure comes when it was hoped that vaccinations could hasten the end of a series of painful pandemic restrictions.

“I’ve been here for more than a month with my family,” said Charly Darwich, a Ra’anana resident. “I came here planning to take a two-week vacation with my wife and kids, and it’s been two weeks longer, with no end in sight.”

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Darwich estimated that hundreds of Israelis are stranded in Dubai without any way to return. “Last week, there was one emergency flight, but we didn’t have enough time to get all the tests and permissions we needed,” he said. “In any case, there was not enough room for everyone, and there were people fighting in the airport about who could get on the plane.”

Darwich added that he had heard that two private Israir flights from Israel landed in Dubai over the weekend, one carrying a group of participants of an Israeli reality show, and one with people working on Israel’s exhibit for the World Expo in Dubai scheduled to start in October. Neither of these flights brought any Israelis back to Israel afterward.

An Israir representative explained that because the flights were privately chartered, they were not authorized to bring anyone back.

Meanwhile, hundreds of athletes from 63 countries around the world are set to arrive in Israel this week for the International Judo Competition Grand Slam in Tel Aviv. Many in Israel and abroad are scratching their heads in disbelief, wondering how the government can prevent its citizens from returning while allowing so many potential coronavirus carriers in.

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In Dubai, the length of Darwich’s stay is taking its toll. “We have to keep spending money on our hotel and food. We have enough to cover our costs, but other people we spoke to have run out of money. We are trying to be more careful with our expenses now.”

Jacob Melcer of Rehovot, who had arrived with his wife in Dubai on January 6, and were now stuck in place for more than two weeks longer than planned, echoed Darwich’s sentiment. “We feel like life is out of control now that we can’t go back to our country. We’re not able to afford to stay here this long.”

Darwich said he would never be able to live down this ordeal. “I made aliyah six years ago because I believed Israel was the only safe place for Jewish people,” he said. “But the government has disappointed us, and I don’t think there is a way to forget it.”

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