In the escalating conflict of the Israel-Gaza war, several residents of Calgary, currently visiting Israel, have been rendered seemingly captive as global airlines halt flights to and from Tel Aviv.
David Wallach, alongside his family, is one such Calgarian, having travelled from Calgary to Tel Aviv last Thursday. While their visit was intended to be familial, they now find themselves entangled in an intensifying conflict.
On the morning of their first Saturday in Israel, alarming sirens and sudden explosions rudely presented themselves. With little insight into the chaotic happenings, Wallach and his wife, both dual citizens of Canada and Israel, were suddenly thrown into a frantic pursuit for safety while traversing Tel Aviv streets in a cab.
Safety arose as a closed restaurant. Its patio space acted as their makeshift refuge. While they remained unharmed, a rocket detonated blocks away from their hotel, causing devastating wreckage of two buildings and reporting 4 injuries. Opting for security, Wallach and his family relocated north of Tel Aviv to a smaller, hopefully safer town.
The duration of their stay initially measured until mid-October, but current circumstances have left the family yearning for an immediate return. Wallach, no stranger to Israeli conflicts, reflected on his experiences stating, “This is my fifth or sixth time being in a war in Israel and it’s nothing that you can get used to.”
In southern Israel, Yuri Isakovich along with his elderly father Boris, another Canadian family, have found themselves in the same situation. Their flight repatriation is being hindered as Air Canada suspends their operations to Tel Aviv, thus breaking the only direct commercial air link between Israel and Canada.
As per Mélanie Joly, Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister, over 2,500 Canadians are registered with the embassy in Israel, with 500 being located in Gaza and the West Bank. Isakovich, although registered, is troubled by the lack of guidance and yearns for the assurance of a Canadian airlift bringing them back home.
In response to the developing crisis, Joly revealed plans to deploy aircraft from the Canadian Armed Forces to airlift Canadians from Tel Aviv in the days ahead. These flights are slated to cater to Canadian citizens, their spouses, children, permanent residents, and their families. The government also aims to devise alternate solutions for those unable to reach Tel Aviv’s airport.
Global Affairs Canada has urged Canadians to hold off travel to Israel, West Bank and Gaza. This recommendation is likewise echoed by Onanta Forbes, a travel agent at Travel Time Inc., advising potential travellers to stay informed and make calculated decisions about their travel plans.
Wallach and his family, grappling with their own fear, are contributing to the war effort in their own way, providing necessary supplies to displaced families and soldiers on the front lines. Wallach emphasized the resilience and fortitude of the human spirit stating, “Life must go on and we have to win this war and we have to move forward.”