The sound of sirens while they were in Eim Karem. Rockets streaking the sky. Explosions, bombings, screams, tears. This is the image imprinted in the minds of Mauritians who were on pilgrimage to Bethlehem when war broke out between Israel and Hamas last week. Yesterday, a group of 15 pilgrims landed at the airport. The next group of 21 people will arrive tomorrow.
At the airport, relief was visible on all the faces of the waiting loved ones. Before the group passed through the exit door, everyone was still somewhat tense. After a week of delay, you had to see them in the flesh to believe it. As for the pilgrims, as soon as they left, joy quickly replaced fatigue. And the story of this religious journey interrupted by a 75-year-old war was not long in coming.
“We were supposed to leave Bethlehem last Sunday. But after the shootings, all flights were canceled,” explains Tysana Frederic. Then begins a long wait, punctuated by hopes of return and canceled flights again. It was not until Thursday that the group left Bethlehem to travel to Jordan by bus. Then, from Amman airport, the 36 Mauritians joined Ankara airport, and from there took another flight to Istanbul. A group flew to Mauritius immediately. “All these trips in three days are physically and mentally tiring. But we are finally here,” adds Tysana Frederic.
When the sirens sounded, explains this mother of two, no one knew what was happening. “In Mauritius, we live well, fortunately. We are not used to all this.” Then, the first explosions rang out. They still had one last visit and some purchases to make. But the Ministry of Tourism there immediately canceled everything, and all the tourists were asked to return to their hotels. “In Bethlehem, we were safe but a little disturbed because we still heard the bombings. The situation was stressful not only for us, but also for our loved ones because everyone was watching the news,” confides Tysana Frederic. Her husband had to explain to his young children that there was a lockdown and that their mother would come home later so as not to scare them.
Genette Puran was also in this group. When the bombings began, their guide did everything to reassure them. Despite the security of the hotel, like Tysana, the noise of the bombings disturbed her. Moreover, Sylvio Sirop, his brother-in-law, explains that the situation was stressful for the loved ones too. “On the phone, she told us everything was fine. But we could hear the explosions! We wondered how she was going to do it, how the group was going to handle it, how they were going to get back.”
However, despite all the stress, Tysana Frederic says the group received all assurances from the diocese, their travel agency and the authorities. “This is not a normal situation, I don’t know what to do. But I think everything was managed very well for us.” The two women, despite their fatigue, say they are relieved to be back in their peaceful country...