The first thing Rachel Assraf did upon landing in Ben-Gurion Airport after
spending a week in the midst of the Egyptian upheaval was to kiss her husband,
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They hugged briefly, by the small indoor glass
“It was a relief to see her,” said Shimon Assraf, who had
waited anxiously for over three hours at the airport late Wednesday
Rachel Assraf and a plane full of Israelis, mostly tourists and
some reporters, had been due to arrive at 8:40 p.m. from Cairo, but did not
actually land until close to midnight.
There are still a number of
Israelis in Egypt, including businessmen, diplomats and journalists, according
to the Foreign Ministry.
Assraf called her husband as soon as the plane
hit the ground, but Shimon did not breathe easy until he saw her walk out of the
glass doors with her bag.
“I had been very worried. I called her every
day,” he later told The Jerusalem Post.
“I didn’t realize how concerned
everyone was until I arrived back in Israel,” said Assraf, who is a mother of
two and a grandmother of three.
“It felt good to be home,” she
Assraf was among a group of tourists who had headed out to Egypt
last week for a planned trip in spite of the early signs of unrest in that
The bulk of her eight-day trip, she said, was spent away from
She and others in her group went to see the pyramids and took a
boat trip down the Nile. Like viewers across the world, she had watched the
massive demonstrations in Cairo on television from her hotel room.
Israeli tourist who also returned on Wednesday night, Yuval Dax, told the Post
that many people who saw the protests on television assumed that the entire
country looked like that. But it was actually calm in many places, he
Still, the tourists didn’t escape the ripple effects of the unrest.
Halfway through their trip, in Luxor, many said they had seen tanks on the
streets. Some mentioned seeing homes with broken windows and speaking with
Egyptians who described how they had armed themselves against
There were the phone calls from relatives back in Israel, at
least when the lines were not down.
Their itineraries were changed
numerous times. Travel was difficult.
Internal flights were canceled, as
was the train.
Toward the end of the week’s trip, they became
increasingly concerned about making their return flight to Israel.
second they changed the plans. There were many people, not just Israelis, who
wanted to get out of there,” Assraf said.
But it was really the last day,
as she neared the airport and saw more tanks, that Assraf said she’d understood
the scope of the unrest.
During one nerve-wracking moment, soldiers
boarded her bus after they saw her take photographs out its window.
stood next to me and yelled, ‘Why are you shooting?’” Assraf
They did not leave the bus until she had erased the camera’s
The scenes she saw outside the bus window reminded her of
media images she had seen of unrest in China and of a visit she had made to
Teheran a year or so before the revolution there.
“I felt like I was in
the same kind of historic moment,” she said.
Dax added, “We went to view
archeology, and instead witnessed history in the making.”
the airport on that day reminded him of Yom Kippur in Israel because there was
no traffic on the roads, he explained.
“It was like being the only
vehicle on the Ayalon [Highway],” Dax said.
A number of the tourists told
the Post that they had felt very comfortable in Egypt as Israelis, and that they
had been very well protected.
Dax, however, said Egyptians had had varied
responses to Israelis, depending in part on their age.
talking with two young Egyptians at the train station who asked him where he was
Dax replied, “Israel.”
“If you’re Israeli, then return to
Israel. We do not want you here,” one of the young men said. Then he
reconsidered and said, “But if you are just visiting here, that is all
Dax said he had immediately backtracked and told the men that he
Back at Ben-Gurion, he told the Post that it was scary to
think the unrest could descend into chaos.
“I am fearful that the next
government will be anti-Israeli,” he said. “I hope we are not among the last
tourist groups to visit Egypt.”