Tour operators, souvenir sellers, holy site overseers, restaurants, and hotel personnel had all hoped to welcome in a flood of tourists to the Holy Land on July 1, but Israel's authorities are saying "not yet."
On Monday, Israel's Tourism Ministry extended a pilot program allowing only a small number of size-limited groups of tourists until at least the end of the month.
After more than a year of closed borders due to COVID-19 restrictions and then an 11-day war with Hamas, Israel received its first tour group—theology students from the Midwest—on May 27. In the first wave of travelers, only 20 tour groups of no more than 20 people each received approval. Another round of tourists will be processed soon, with tour operators getting a chance for their group to gain entry on a first-come-first-serve basis, in groups of up to 30 people—1,000 travelers maximum will be allowed in by the end of June.
As previously required, all travelers have to be vaccinated, pass a PCR COVID-19 test before and after the flight, and take a blood test to prove antibodies. Also, no one is allowed if they recently visited the countries currently under a travel ban—Brazil, South Africa, Russia, and Argentina.
Israeli officials plan to announce the next phase of opening up tourism—possibly to individual pilgrims—at the end of this month.
Tour Israel with Ron and Elana!
I spoke with the CEO of the tour company that we use for our tours here in Israel, and we agreed to plan a tour for late October or early November. If you are interested, this would be an exciting time to come to Israel. The country's tourist apparatus will probably be only at 60 percent capacity by then, meaning it will be like going to Disney World when the lines are very short! If you're interested, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. We should have all the details within the next couple of weeks.