Coronavirus: Israeli consulates in US rush to help Israelis return home

“We want Israelis not to wait and return home now.”

The Israeli Consulate in New York.  (photo credit: SHMUEL ALPERIN/ GOOGLE STREET VIEW)
The Israeli Consulate in New York.
WASHINGTON – Israel is working around the clock to help citizens return home and calling on those who are traveling abroad to cut short their trips.
“We had dozens of urgent cases,” Israeli Consul General in New York Dani Dayan told The Jerusalem Post.
“At the early stages of the crisis, Israel allowed foreign citizens to enter the country if they could prove they have a place to stay during a 14-day quarantine period,” he said. “At this point, we received about 100 requests for help every day. But since then, the policy has changed, and only Israelis are allowed into the country, with the exception of non-Israelis who live there [in Israel]. Since the policy has changed, we have seen a drop in new requests.”
“For example, many Israelis are living in the US who had a baby, and they did not register the child as an Israeli citizen and are asking to get him an Israeli passport or a special entry permit,” Dayan told the Post. “There were dozens of cases like that, and all of them needed to fly to Israel immediately.”
Another example is funerals of non-Israelis, he said. While funerals in Israel are taking place as usual, it has been a challenge to bury people who lived abroad and bought a grave in Israel.
“The conditions have changed, and people need to prove that the deceased person did not die of coronavirus,” Dayan said. “Families used to fly to Israel to participate in the funeral of their loved ones. Because of the mandatory 14-day quarantine period, they need to decide [whether] to respect the request of the person who wished to be buried in Israel, but without family in attendance, or to bury the family member in the US. It is heartbreaking.”
Dayan is managing this crisis while he himself is in self-quarantine.
“A security guard was tested positive after feeling symptoms,” he said. “Anyone who came in contact with him went to quarantine, including me – at least two dozen people. I feel totally fine.”
“Our activity is not as usual because nothing in New York is as usual right now,” Dayan said. “There are people under quarantine and people in a risk group, and we are taking care of them. There are no face-to-face meetings at all, not with people in the Jewish community and not with people in the general community.”
Benjamin Krasna is the deputy head of mission at the Israeli Embassy in Washington. The embassy has received more consular requests, he told the Post.
“The first wave of special requests that we received was to help people who wanted to fly to Israel before Passover,” Krasna said. “Universities have shut down and sent these students home without a solution. We had to work extensively and under the pressure of time to assist them in getting back so families could spend the holiday together.”
“We want Israelis not to wait and return home now,” he said. “Even in places that are in full function today, you don’t know what the situation is going to be tomorrow. So we advise Israelis to return home as soon as possible.”
“We are also handling unusual cases of people who traveled abroad, mostly in Latin America, and need help from the embassy to make it back home,” Krasna said. “Some places in the Caribbean did not allow Israelis to take a flight to mainland US because they thought that Israelis are blocked from entering the US, like EU citizens. We had to reach out to the White House and the State Department so they would clarify [that] Israelis are allowed to enter.”