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High Court petition filed demanding reentry for citizens stuck abroad

CM 03/02/2021

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A petition to the High Court of Justice will be filed on Wednesday on behalf of 50 Israeli citizens currently stuck in foreign countries and unable to return to Israel due to the closure of the airport. Ben-Gurion International Airport was shut on January 25 to all commercial flights due to the government’s concerns over the entry of COVID-19 variants into the country, and has remained close since. The decision has left what is estimated to be hundreds of Israeli citizens stranded abroad, who had flown out before the decision was made. Former MK Dov Lipman says he has received at least a hundred calls and messages from Israelis, mostly immigrants from English-speaking countries, asking for assistance in returning home. He says that the majority of cases involve an individual who traveled abroad due to the death or sickness of a family member, those who fly regularly for work, and lone soldiers. Lipman says the basic premise of the petition is that citizens of the country have a basic right to be able to return home, while accepting that COVID-19 testing and quarantine will be necessary. Rachel Holzer’s husband Aton flew to the US two weeks ago for work, and also took his 11-year old son with him for a family Bar Mitzvah, but will now not be able to return as scheduled on Thursday.

Aton, a skin cancer surgeon who works at Ichilov Hospital, has received both shots of the COVID-19 vaccine and was expecting to return to treat patients next week, something that now looks impossible. Rachel, who has five other children at home, says the uncertainty of when her husband and son will be able to return has caused her anxiety and stress over the last two weeks. “It’s insanity; citizens who are abroad for whatever reason expect to be able to come home. They want to come back, do quarantine, go back to their families and lives – and having them stuck abroad is unconscionable.”
THE CABINET is meeting today (Wednesday) to discuss extending the current lockdown and may also make a decision on the airport. According to criteria for reentering the country published earlier this week, citizens stuck abroad who are in need of urgent medical treatment, or are first-degree relatives of someone who died in Israel, citizens who are defined as critical workers, or those on government delegations can apply to a special committee headed by Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz. “Israel is an amazing country that sends its Air Force to rescue hostages in Entebbe and airlifted thousands of Ethiopian Jews in 24 hours,” said Lipman. “But there are times when our leaders seem to lose their minds and make decisions that run counter to our country’s ethos. This is one of those moments. There is no more basic right than being able to return home, and the government must reverse this decision immediately – while requiring testing and quarantine for those returning,” the former MK said. “There is no need for wasting manpower and energy on analyzing whether these Israelis fit absurd and ridiculous criteria. We would be better off spending that time and energy on enforcing the laws of mask wearing, school closings and mass gatherings instead.”Blue and White MK Michal Cotler-Wunsh, who has also been involved in providing assistance to Israelis stuck abroad, said she herself has received almost a hundred requests for assistance from those who are desperate for information. “The government has asked citizens to apply for an entry permit to return home without stating the processing time for such applications – and without providing any information regarding what flights they will be able to board once their permits are received,” said Cotler-Wunsh. “The airport closure is also impacting serious humanitarian cases, such as the long overdue implementation of the government-scheduled Ethiopian aliyah,” she said. “The Jewish State cannot abandon its sisters and brothers, and must find ways to protect the public health while ensuring a safe return home.”
Source: Jerusalem Post

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