Israelis stress while stranded in Bangkok

Members of the United Front of Democracy against Dictatorship gather in front of Bangkok City Hall on Dec. 1, 2008. (Adaptorplug / Creative Commons)

Members of the United Front of Democracy against Dictatorship gather in front of Bangkok City Hall on Dec. 1, 2008. (Adaptorplug / Creative Commons)

BANGKOK (JTA) – Shmulik Masa frowns and rolls his salad with a fork in a Jewish-run restaurant in this city’s backpacker district.

“It’s been a double whammy for me in Thailand,” the young Israeli traveler says, clearly frustrated.

Masa has a plane ticket out of Thailand, but his flight on Cathay Pacific Airways has been canceled indefinitely as anarchic political demonstrations have shut down both of Bangkok’s commercial airports for days.

Two years ago, on another trip to Thailand, the college student from Yavne landed in Bangkok just as tanks rolled onto the capital’s streets in the country’s 18th military coup.

“Once I get out, I won’t be coming back here again soon,” Masa says.

Like him, myriad Israelis have been left stranded in Bangkok. They bide their time, anxiously scanning the news and trying to contact airlines about possible new flight schedules.

The few Israeli-run restaurants in the city are packed with travelers who have missed flights back home or are just about to if the airport closures continue, as they are expected to this week.

Many are hunched over Internet terminals or with phones pressed to their ears, hoping to reassure relatives in Israel. Several are short of cash; their limited traveling budgets already have been used up.

An elderly Israeli woman who left her luggage in storage at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport before protesters seized the terminals on Nov. 25 has been trying in vain to reclaim her belongings.

“I think it’s bizarre that some people have overpowered the government and paralyzed the country,” says Elysa Rapaport, an Australian Jewish traveler who lives in Tel Aviv. “This would never happen in Israel.”

She adds, “We’ve heard stories of people who are afraid they’ll lose their jobs because they can’t get back to Israel.”

Others like Lera Revivo from Ramat Gan are late for school.

With her computer programmer husband, she’s been on honeymoon in Thailand, a popular tourist destination for Israelis, but now is desperate to return home. The semester already has started at Ben Gurion University, where she studies psychology.

“We try to keep it easy, but our families at home are stressed out,” Revivo says. “Actually I’m a bit nervous, too. I just want to go home.”

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