A group of 30 Israelis were brought back from Morocco to Israel on Wednesday night, after they were stranded in the north African country for two months due to the coronavirus epidemic.
After various bureaucratic hurdles, and with the help of several businessmen, the Israeli group managed to board a special Air France flight from the city of Casablanca to Paris.
From there, the group boarded a private Boeing 767 airplane, which landed in Israel around 5 am, marking the retrieval operation a success.
"I went to Morocco to enjoy life," said 32-year-old Bar, who took part in the rescue flight on Wednesday night.
“I arrived in Morocco in February, and it took them a very short time to announce the closure. I and many other tourists were unable to leave Morocco for our own countries."
Although Morocco has not had an open diplomatic relationship with Israel since 2000, thousands of Israelis visit the country every year.
“Morocco is an incredible country with amazing people," said Bar.
"Because we had nowhere to go, I stayed for 52 days on the beach with other tourists, while some of us built tents and some slept in caravans, the Moroccans around us helped us constantly,” said Bar.
"There was not a moment of hostility. People heard that I was from Israel and told me 'we are brothers'. I was made to feel welcome and felt a little at home because my grandmother was originally from Morocco."
Another passenger who found himself stuck in Morocco said he never thought he would be stranded for so long away from home. "There was a lot of bureaucracy to get us out of there," he said.
"People had run out of medication and money. Only thanks to the intervention of private bodies and some government agencies did the flight happened."
"We were told not to talk about it so that it would not be canceled at the last minute,” he said. “Only when we landed in Paris did we breathe a sigh of relief. I haven't seen my family in Israel in over two months."
Likud MK Nir Barkat, who is expected to be appointed minister in the next government, was among those who intervened to make the flight a reality.
"I am excited to see thes plane land here in the country and I was delighted to have had the opportunity to be a part of this operation," Barkat said.
"The rescue is an exceptional expression of Israel's mutual guarantee of its citizens,” the former Jerusalem mayor said. “Even during the coronavirus crisis, Israel does not abandon its citizens and goes to great efforts to help and return them to Israel.”
As Israel carried out multiple flights to return its nationals from all around the world, discussions were also being held with Morocco regarding sending a special flight to collect the Israeli citizens stranded there.
On Wednesday, reports claimed that the rescue effort had been delayed by about a month due to a tweet on the issue posted by Foreign Minister Israel Katz.
According to the reports, the tweet from Katz prompted Morocco to revoke its consent for an Israeli plane to land within its borders.