NRIs including 85 Keralites to be repatriated from Israel on Tuesday
Tel Aviv: A group of 115 Indians stranded in Israel due to COVID-19 outbreak will be repatriated on Tuesday. The group includes students and pregnant women also. 85 among them are Keralites. Apart from them, Nepalese woman Prabha Baskota who married an Indian man and five Israeli diplomats also are travelling with them to India.
The Keralites among the group will take a connection flight from Delhi to reach Kochi. Soumya Jose from Kerala shared her relief of being taken to native place as she is pregnant. Majority of the group are caregivers who were terminated by their employers.
"I have been staying here without a job for 4 months. I have no money and job, but have to pay rent. Cost of living in Israel is really high. The government allowed us to work, but people did not hire us due to fear of COVID," said Idukki native Annamma Siby. She reached Israel in 2013.
Among the passengers on Tuesday was 74-year-old Sam Edelji Turel from Maharashtra, who came to Israel in February for treatment of lymphoma.
"I was referred to Sheba Medical Centre and I was happy to see the state of the art technology being used in Israel for the treatment of Lymphoma. I got very professional care during my treatment after coming here on February 3. My treatment got over on April 10 and since then me and my wife have been waiting to go back", Turel said.
"I must say that we are very lucky that a flight has been organised for stranded Indians like me. As elderly people, we cannot thank enough for this help. At the same time I hope that I can reach Mumbai and be quarantined there as I continue to need medical care and my doctors are there," he said.
"These are very challenging times and the Vande Bharat Mission flight to India is one of our many efforts to reach out to our community of students and caregivers here in Israel," India's ambassador to Israel Sanjeev Singla told PTI at the airport.
"The Ministry of External Affairs, the Civil Aviation Ministry, the Home Ministry, the Israeli Foreign Ministry and the embassy have taken all possible steps to ensure that our nationals stranded and facing hardships for various reasons are able to return home", Singla said.
The Indian government launched the ''Vande Bharat Mission'' on May 7 to bring back Indians stranded in various countries due to coronavirus-related restrictions. Under Phase I of the mission, the government evacuated a total of 6,527 Indians from the Gulf region and from countries like the US, the UK, the Philippines, Bangladesh, Malaysia and the Maldives.
The specially arranged Air India evacuation flight brought 88 passengers from Delhi to Tel Aviv, almost all of them Israelis. The national carrier which has stepped up to support the government mission to help bring back stranded Indians has also kept the price of the tickets reasonable.
"All of us going to Delhi have paid USD 679 for the ticket. Those going to Kochi have paid USD 750," a relieved student said, adding that, "We thought given the extraordinary situation we may have to pay something abnormal, but it's the same fare that we pay during normal times".
Air India's country Head Pankaj Tiwari told PTI that the airline even took pains to adjust the fares of those who had bought tickets through its sales office and were looking for a refund or adjustment.
The Indian embassy in Tel Aviv in an announcement on May 15 said that it was looking into the possibility of facilitating the return of interested Indian nationals from Israel, who could not travel earlier due to COVID-19-related international travel restrictions.
Most of those who provided details and expressed willingness to pay for the ticket and quarantine boarded the flight today, the embassy officials said. Almost all the embassy staff was present at the airport to see off the passengers and also distributed a package with gloves and masks for their onward journey.
(With inputs from PTI)