Uncertainty over families' Pesach travel plans after Israel mandates two-week quarantine for all arrivals

'The whole thing is an absolute nightmare... It’s very, very sad for our family'



Families hoping to travel to Israel for Pesach have been left uncertain what do after the country decided to impose a two-week quarantine on everyone who enters the country, in an bid to stem contain coronavirus.

From Thursday, anyone entering the country must enter 14 days of self-isolation. Any foreign national without access to a private residence to do this will be refused entry.

Lisa Oren’s mother, who lives in Borehamwood, was due to visit her in Jerusalem for Purim but she managed to talk her out of the trip after the quarantine was announced on Monday.

“Things just kept changing,” Ms Oren told the JC, adding she felt “not in control, because nobody knows what will happen next, and our hands are really tied.

“I’ve got people that I know that have been in isolation already […] and they’re really traumatised by it, even though they were completely set up to work at home. They’ve said it’s really, really tough and I know my mum would not have managed.

Ms Oren, who works for an NGO, said a colleague of hers and their family were forced to self-isolate after returning from Italy.

“She came back to work this week and said ‘it’s really difficult’. You don’t know what it’s like until you’re in it […] It is debilitating. You do not see another face.”

Israeli airline El Al has said that many of its plane tickets can be rebooked within the next 12 months at no extra cost.

Ms Oren said that her mother, who is in her early 70s, was “frustrated” as she was “really looking forward to” seeing family and friends, but that she would rebook “definitely rebook as soon as she can.”

Tracey Yardley, who lives in Manchester, described her position as an “impossible situation”. Her family have an apartment in Netanya and have been going for Pesach for 18 years.

“I don’t have any Pesach pots in Manchester anymore,” she said. “We really don’t know what to do, as at the moment we could get to Israel, but […] we wouldn't be able to buy food.

“We are flying separately from our sons, so don't want to get there and find that they then can't join us.

“My elder son is trying to fly home with his Israeli girlfriend, as they have plans here until just before Pesach. She is worried that she won't be able to get back into Israel.

“Lots of our friends have already cancelled trips to Israel for Pesach, but we really want to go and experience Yom Tov there.”

She added her husband had elderly parents and is concerned about them being exposed to the virus.

“I have a friend in Rome so can see how drastic the measures are that Italy has taken. I am watching developments obsessively both here and in Israel.”

Doreen Samuels, 68, from Pinner, was due to fly to Tel Aviv on April 1 for a family bar mitzvah and Pesach. She told the JC that if the situation in Israel did not change in the next week, they would have to cancel.

“The whole thing is an absolute nightmare,” she said. “And it’s very, very sad for our lovely family who are trying to have this bar mitzvah with lots of family coming from the UK.

“Even if we were to go at the end of this week – which we can’t – we wouldn’t be able to go to the bar mitzvah, and going on the April 1 means we would be quarantined over the beginning of Pesach.

“In a way, we’re lucky because we have our own flat, so at least we can self-isolate... But what’s the point? We might as well stay here and have Pesach on our own if we’re going to have Pesach on our own.”

Ms Samuels was planning to fly with WizzAir, which suspended flights to Tel Aviv from March 12.

She said she was unsure if she would get a refund, adding that the restrictions meant that when it came to making plans “it’s hard to make them, and it’s hard to break them.”

Erez Agami, 28, was due to fly to Tel Aviv on March 20 for a 10-day visit to see family across Israel, but decided to postpone his flights after the two-week quarantine was announced.

He told the JC he was “gutted”.

“My dad lives in Israel and yesterday they did the two-week quarantine, and so that means that there’s no point going, because I would just have to be in a house for the duration of the holiday.

“I guess I’ll go when the whole virus thing dies down.”

Mr Agami, from Edgware, added that his sister was also planning to fly out with Virgin but was unsure of the status of the tickets.

The airline has since suspended flights from March 12 until April 1.

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