While Israelis unable to return home due to coronavirus restrictions on air travel, hundreds of international athletes are set to arrive for the international Grand Slam Judo competition taking place in Tel Aviv.
The competition that will take place next week will host up to 500 athletes from 63 countries that will begin arriving as of Sunday.
The coronavirus cabinet on Sunday voted to allow up to 2,000 people a day to enter the country in accordance with Health Ministry directives while many Israelis are left with no options available to them to return home.
Two such Israelis are business partners Eyal Greenberg and Eli Salpter, who flew to the U.S. at the end of January after receiving their coronavirus vaccines, and were forced to fly to the UAE after being denied a seat on a rescue flight to Israel from Germany’s Frankfurt Airport.
“Our husbands came to Germany on flights from the U.S., they then flew to Kiev, and from there to Istanbul, but now they must leave for the only country that is willing to accept them - the United Arab Emirates,” says Meirav, Eyal's wife. “I’m absolutely livid and disappointed at my own country,” she said.
Eli’s wife Yael is also at a loss: “Our husbands have not been to their business for almost a year because of coronavirus restrictions. They had to fly now, otherwise their business would have collapsed. My three children and I have been waiting for two weeks for the Exceptions Committee in the Health Ministry to allow them to board a flight back, but there is no one to talk to, no phone number even.”
According to the Transportation Ministry, they are aware of the difficulties, and are working to charter a rescue flight from Dubai for those Israelis forced to leave Germany for the Emirates.
Alona, who is currently stuck in the Ukraine after she took off at the end of January to visit her mother, is also unable to obtain a permit.
“I flew because my mother's condition was very bad and she was hospitalized," says Alona. "Now that her condition has improved I want to go back to my children, but there is no one to talk to and the Exceptions Committee does not respond to the requests I have submitted. I was going to fly to Frankfurt and from there to Israel, but the committee had thus far failed to even acknowledge me.”
Carla Ben Simhon, whose 94-year-old grandmother Blanche Ben Simhon Cohen passed away this weekend, still does not know if her family from France will be able to attend the funeral, which is expected to take place Monday in Jerusalem.
“[My grandma's] children flew from France to Frankfurt, they have tickets for an Israir flight, but we have yet to receive a response from the Exception Committee since Friday morning,” says Ben Simhon.
Meanwhile, about 150 athletes from Istanbul are expected to arrive in Israel on Sunday evening, with hundreds more expected to arrive on Monday and Tuesday from Istanbul and Paris - in order to participate in the Grand Slam Judo competition taking place in Tel Aviv.
According to the organizers' of the competition, all athletes who arrive in Israel will undergo a coronavirus test in Israel, after which they will remain in isolation in their hotel room, and only after receiving negative results will they be allowed to leave isolation.