44 Kerala pilgrims stuck in Israel | Kochi News

KOTTAYAM: Several families from Kottayam and Pathanamthitta who had gone on a pilgrimage to Palestine, Jordan, Israel and Egypt are among those stranded in war-hit Israel. The 44-member group, including two priests and a nun, belong to various parish churches in Kottayam and nearby places.
They had left Kerala for the tour organised by a travel agency on October 4 and were scheduled to return on October 14.
The group is led by Fr Mathew Thanniath, vicar of Holy Magi Forane Church in Manimala, and Fr Jacob Naduvilekkalam, vicar of Little Flower Church, Kulathoor in Pathanamthitta.
According to Fr Martin Elackadunaluparayil, assistant vicar of Holy Magi church, the group landed in Israel on October 7, the day on which the war broke out. “I got a phone call from Fr Mathew on Tuesday evening. He told me that the group was in the city of Nazareth, and they were staying in a hotel. He also said all of them are safe, but they are uncertain about their return to India,” he said.
The group’s guide in Israel had taken them to a hotel, where their accommodation had been arranged. However, they have been strictly warned against going out or making phone calls.
“Fr Mathew told me not to worry about them as they are all safe. He also said the tour company had assured them that they would be brought back home at the earliest,” Fr Martin said.
These families hail from Manimala, Pulikkallu, Karikkattoor, Karimbanakkulam, Pazhayidom, Cheruvally, Kulathoor and Changanassery.
Church seeks help desks:
The Syro-Malabar Church has urged the state as well as Union governments to ensure protection of Indians in Israel. In a statement, it demanded setting up help desks in coordination with the Indian embassy in Israel, external affairs ministry and Kerala government. It also urged authorities to consider operating special flights for stranded Indians.

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