The volcanic ash that has derailed people's travel plans throughout Europe has stranded thousands of tourists in Israel as they are unable to return to their countries, giving them an opportunity to witness the most Israeli day of the year – Memorial Day.
"This is the first time we are here for Memorial Day. It is an incredible experience, and I feel like it is very important to witness," Julian Harris told Ynet on Monday. He is visiting Israel with his wife, Eve.
The Jewish couple, who live in London, said that they "are trying to take everything positively and make the best of the situation."
Standing for moment of silence in Tel Aviv (Photo: Yaron Brener)
According to Harris, "We were in Rabin Square in the evening. We saw more unity than sadness. There were a lot of young people in the square, who for sure were friends of fallen soldiers. The feeling of togetherness is very strong here."
Despite the opportunity to experience Israel's national day of mourning, Harris is anxious to get back home. "We were supposed to stay for only eight days, and it has become longer," he explained. "It's not so simple to be gone from work. I called the boss. He understood, but I don't know what to do."
Unlike the British couple, Martin Ohmam from Sweden doesn't really feel Memorial Day in the air. "I understand that it is a unique day, but I was in the office all day and didn't really notice it," Ohmam, who is staying in a hotel in Tel Aviv, told Ynet. "I only noticed that everything is closed, and I heard that it is Memorial Day. Fortunately, my work provides me with food."
'I see sadness on people's faces'
Ohmam was supposed to return to Sweden on Saturday on a flight via Switzerland. He found about the cancellation on the internet. "I mainly miss my family. I talk to them on the phone. The kids are fine, but it's really hard for my wife alone. In the meantime, I am continuing to work without knowing when the skies will clear up and I'll be able to leave," he said.
Tiotr Tollatynski, a Polish businessman staying in Tel Aviv, was also supposed to return home on Saturday, but has been forced to stay in Israel.
Tollatynski, whose wife is due to give birth any day, hopes he will be able to leave soon: "It's not so bad staying here a little more, but my wife could give birth any day. We have one child, and I really want to be there when it happens."