Rescuing the stranded – a mission of mercy

  • AboveBoardShaunZagnoev (3)
Among those particularly harshly impacted by the lockdown are the South Africans who found themselves suddenly stranded in foreign countries without either legal or practical means of returning home.
by SHAUN ZAGNOEV | May 28, 2020

Over the past several weeks, the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) has been active on behalf of Jewish community members who have been stuck in Israel for the past two months. In view of the innumerable difficulties that these unprecedented circumstances continually throw up, it has undoubtedly been one of the most complicated issues that we have had to deal with, as well as one of the most stressful.

It has involved continually liaising with, among others, the respective South African and Israeli embassies, the Department of International Relations and Cooperation, the National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure, various international airlines, and, of course, the relevant individuals and families themselves. Eventually, all of this work bore fruit, so that last Saturday night, we were pleased to be able to announce that the repatriation of South African citizens in Israel had been approved, and they will return to our shores in the near future.

During this time, the Board has also been doing everything possible to assist a local couple who urgently need to travel to Israel to be with their seriously ill daughter. This, if anything, has been even more complicated and emotionally stressful. Since South Africans aren’t allowed to leave the country at the moment, permission had to be obtained to do so on humanitarian grounds. Permission from Israel was also needed, and then there was a drawn-out, soul-destroying process of finding a carrier willing and able to transport the couple, something greatly complicated by foreign visa requirements and the unavailability of places on the few permitted flights available.

Even travelling inside the country to get to OR Tambo International Airport required obtaining police permission. At the time of writing, this very sensitive and complex matter is close to being resolved, and I hope to be able to report next week that the parents concerned are finally at their daughter’s side in this time of great need.

The SAJBD exists precisely for reasons like these, and our national director, Wendy Kahn – as ever leading from the front – can’t be praised enough for bringing it all about. In spite of the many other demands constantly made on her, Wendy has taken full responsibility for managing every stage of the process. Indeed, it has demonstrated yet again how she will unfailingly devote as much time and energy as required to resolve a particular situation regardless of whether it concerns the needs of Jewish community as a whole or those of just one or two individuals.

We thank her along with all members of our dedicated professional staff who are providing our community with as much support as they can during these testing times.

•     Listen to Charisse Zeifert on Jewish Board Talk, 101.9 ChaiFM, every Friday from 12:00 to 13:00.

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