US Embassy warns Americans in Israel: Come home now while you can

U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem warns that it doesn’t know when American citizens in Israel will be able to return to the U.S. in light of the corona-related air travel shutdown.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

The U.S. embassy in Jerusalem on Sunday warned American citizens living in Israel that due to international flight cancellations U.S. citizens living in Israel might not be able to return to America anytime soon.

“As of March 29, the only available commercial flight departing Ben Gurion Airport to the United States is on United Airlines, but it is subject to change at any time,” the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem said in an e-mail sent to Americans who had registered for updates.

In a statement on its website, United Airlines advised passengers the company is “reinstating several international flights over the next few days and will continue to fly six daily international flights through May,” but warned “our international schedule will be reduced by about 90% in April.” Tel Aviv was one of the international destinations listed.

“To the best of our knowledge, there are no flights available at this time from Ben Gurion Airport to other destinations which may provide connections to the United States,” the embassy said.

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Israel’s El Al Airlines announced it had suspended all commercial flights and most international airlines have canceled their service to Israel. Services at Ben Gurion, Israel’s major gateway to the world, have been drastically scaled back and both El Al and the Israel Airports Authority have laid off thousands of workers.

In a statement last week El Al said it was temporarily suspending all scheduled flights departing Israel until at least April 4th. However, Israel appeared to be headed for a national shutdown that would most likely keep the airport shut for at least three weeks.

The embassy warned Americans that it was not clear when international travel to the United States would be possible and they may not get back to American soil anytime soon.

“U.S. citizens who live in or seek to travel to the United States should arrange for immediate departure to the United States, unless they are prepared to remain in Israel, [Judea and Samaria], or Gaza for an indefinite period,” the email continued. “Further cancellations and suspensions can occur with little or no warning, making availability limited and unpredictable. Your travel plans may be severely disrupted, and you may be forced to remain outside of the United States for an indefinite timeframe.”

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Americans were advised to check the U.S. Embassy’s special COVID-19 website for updates and also register themselves with the Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) so that the embassy can contact them with updated information and in an emergency.

It is unclear how many Israelis hold dual UlS.-Israeli citizenship. Official immigration statistics released in 2019 showed  that 148,000 Americans have moved to Israel. However, that number does not include their offspring, many of whom received a U.S. passport as the child of an American.