UPDATE: The federal government announced Tuesday afternoon that it planned to begin assisting Canadians out of Tel Aviv, utilizing Canadian Armed Forces aircraft, in the coming days.Airlines around the world are cancelling flights to and from Tel Aviv amid the rapidly escalating violence in Israel and the Gaza Strip. Air Canada, along with U.S. and western European airlines, has suspended flights, leaving Canadians trying to return home with limited options to get out of the country.
Calgarian Jeff Kahane’s 18-year-old niece, Maya, was in Israel going to school when the attacks started on Saturday, and the family immediately started looking at flights to get her to safety.“Trying to get her out has been next to impossible,” Kahane said. “Flights from Canada and the U.S. have all been cancelled, Germany cancelled flights…. The first one we saw was $14,000 and 52 hours.”
Kahane says a family member suggested he try the government of Canada’s emergency text line to see if there were any arrangements for Canadians trying to get back to Canada. He says while the response was quick, it wasn’t helpful.“The response was, ‘No, we do not assist with those things, you have to make your own arrangements,’” Kahane said.
He said he then asked if they could recommend any private security firms he could hire to escort his niece to the airport.“They said, ‘Nope, we suggest you do online research.’ Basically, the federal government told me to go Google,” Kahane said. “What do you do with that?”
Global News has reached out to the federal government for its response to calls to repatriate citizens but has not yet received a response.There is a travel advisory in place, advising to avoid non-essential travel to Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, but Kahane says more needs to be done.
“It wasn’t a very long wait but to have no resources, no suggestions, nothing … just ‘go Google.’… I was really disappointed.”Calgarian David Wallach and his family were also in Israel when the conflict started. He said they were coming home from dinner in Tel Aviv when they heard airstrike sirens, forcing their cab to pull over.
“The instructions from the Israeli defence force is you stop the car, you get out of the car, you lay on the ground, put your hands behind your head and make yourself as small as possible,” Wallach said.Wallach is a dual Israeli-Canadian citizen and says he is lucky to have family and friends in the country. They were able to head north to a childhood friend’s house, where they will stay until his daughter and her partner can fly back to Canada.