While thousands of stranded tourists scrambled to rearrange their travel plans in the wake of this past weekend’s forced airport closure in the southern Thailand resort of Phuket, more than 270 Israelis turned to the one place they knew would be able to help: the local Chabad-Lubavitch center.

“We got to the airport on Friday and they said there was a big commotion, and we would have to fly out on Sunday,” said Golan Bar-Zion, who was traveling to the north of Thailand.

Bar-Zion, 61, has a family business in Israel, but has been on vacation for the past couple months, traveling all over the Asian nation.

For his part, he was happy to stay in Phuket over Shabbat.

“Shabbat was very special,” said Bar-Zion. “Like all Chabad Houses in Thailand, there is a feeling of home, when so many Israelis get together for Kiddush, and everyone is singing together.”

The weekend closure of the Phuket International Airport resulted from anti-government demonstrations that have swept across Thailand. It reopened on Sunday, but on Monday, travelers were still stranded as airlines worked to resume full service.

When news reached Rabbi Aron Salamon Friday afternoon that Israelis were stuck at the airport, he and his wife Hadassah put together care packages of kosher food that he delivered to the tourists. When it was clear that flights would not leave before Shabbat, the Israelis went to the Salamons’ Chabad House.

“We became an emergency hotline,” said the rabbi. The couple helped the travelers check in with concerned parents and friends back home in Israel. Many of those stranded were backpackers who had recently finished their mandatory army service.

Although the delay amounted to little more than an inconvenience for many, one Jewish man faced a difficult health issue as a result of the airport closure. Recently released from the hospital, he needed to be transported back to Israel for continued treatment.

“It was very difficult for the family,” said Salamon. The family had to readmit their father and delay his treatment.

In the end, the family successfully departed Phuket on Sunday.

One Jewish traveler, though, saw a benefit in the protests. He had a ticket for Friday night, and traveling would have meant transgressing Shabbat. While he hadn’t intended to observe the holy day, he remarked that he was actually able to uphold the sanctity of Shabbat.

“I didn’t like flying on Shabbat anyway,” the man told Salamon.