DFA: 260 students repatriated from Israel on âhistoricâ flight
In this Oct. 14, 2020, photo, Philippine Ambassador to Israel Neal Imperial (right) and Ambassador Hanan Goder (left), MASHAV coordinator for the Granot agricultural program of Israel, are seen sending off 260 students to Manila.
Released/Philippine Embassy in Tel Aviv

DFA: 260 students repatriated from Israel on ‘historic’ flight

(Philstar.com) - October 17, 2020 - 5:02pm

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Foreign Affairs on Thursday said it brought home over 200 students who were stranded in Israel for weeks.

"The Philippine Embassy in Tel Aviv, in coordination with the MASHAV aid agency of Israel, repatriated a total of 260 stranded Filipino agricultural students," a statement released by the agency read.

"The repatriates flew onboard the first-ever El Al Airlines direct flight to Manila from Tel Aviv and arrived in Manila on 14 October," DFA added. El Al Airlines is the flag carrier of Israel.

The department said the historic flight is the first of two chartered flights to bring home 600 Filipino students whose internship program ended in September.

"The returning students were part of an agricultural internship program called the Granot Agrostudies Program under the auspices of MASHAV, Israel’s agency for international development cooperation," DFA said. It added that 30 Philippine State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) participated in the program, sending their students to "train in Israeli farms and learn the latest agricultural techniques and practices."

"The 15th batch of 601 students started their internship in October 2019 and ended in September 2020. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the current lockdown in Israel, their scheduled return flights were cancelled, which left them stranded in Israel for weeks," the agency said.

DFA added the students were sent off by Philippine Ambassador to Israel Neal Imperial who congratulated them for completing the 11-month program.

"Even with the pandemic and the current national lockdown, I am happy that you are now able to return to the Philippines to see your families after one year of absence,” Imperial said.

“You will now join a pool of more than 5,000 graduates of the program since 2005, equipped with new knowledge and expertise that can help boost Philippine agriculture. I therefore enjoin all of you to become 21st century farmers and agri-entrepreneurs to help our country achieve food security during this time of crisis and beyond,” he added.

According to the DFA, the send-off was also attended by MASHAV coordinator Ambassador Hanan Goder and Consul General Randy Arquiza. — Bella Perez-Rubio

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