Emergency landing in Tehran: I thought my life was over

Israeli passenger on plane which made unexpected emergency landing in Iran recalls fear that he would be taken if forced to leave the plane.

Gary Willig ,

Airplane plane landing (illustration)
Airplane plane landing (illustration)

Emergency landings are stressful under any circumstances, but an unexpected landing in a sworn enemy of your home country creates an entirely new set of concerns.

Bar Azoulay, an Israeli citizen, was forced to spend 34 hours in Tehran, the capital of the Islamic Republic of Iran, after his plane to Bucharest was forced to land when another passenger suffered a medical emergency.

Azoulay spoke to News 2 journalist Ofer Hadad about the moment that he, an Israeli Jew, realized that he might have to exit the plane and enter a country whose leaders call for the destruction of Israel.

"Luckily, I'm speaking to you from Bucharest and not from Tehran," Azoulay said. He said that after traveling for five months in India, he boarded a flight to Bucharest to celebrate the bachelor party of his future brother-in-law. During the flight that included a stopover in Istanbul, Azoulay fell asleep. He said that suddenly an Indian passenger who was next to him woke him up and said, "Get up. We're landing."

"I didn't understand how we could have landed so quickly," he said. "I raised my head to a map on the screen and I see that the landing is taking place in Teheran and I did not understand what was happening and I saw a lot of people acting hysterically about a person lying on the floor."

"Then it turned out that he had suffered cardiac arrest so we had to make an emergency landing in the capital of Iran." He continued: "I'm talking about it and I have the creeps from this horror that I saw an unconscious person undergoing resuscitation. It was a difficult sight and the second thing was landing ... I was very stressed, not informed and was told nothing and we did not know if we had to get off the plane or not."

"I realized that I was going to land in Iran and started to run over in my head various films and very difficult scenarios," Azoulay said. "My first thought was that my life was over and my trip had ended, and my sister had to get married in three days and I thought that I would not get there, and I was very sure that they would take me and I would not return to the plane."

He said he had spoken to the Indian passenger sitting next to him. "I told her that I was Israeli because there were some Muslims I felt insecure about," he said. "But the passenger was very cute and she laughed and was terrified at the same time. She did not know if we were being taken down, so I caught one of the stewardesses and asked her. She said that only after we landed would we know."

"After we landed, a medical team boarded the plane, and I just hoped that they would not take us down. I told myself that even if that happened, I would not leave the plane safely, not alone, I am afraid to imagine this situation again. They did CPR on the floor of the plane and everyone saw it. Those 24 hours I went through felt like an eternity."