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Israel Opening for Tours May 23 After More Than a Year of Pandemic Shutdown

Tests and vaccines will be required, but tourists in organized groups will start to flow back into the Holy Land once again at the end of May, according to an announcement Tuesday from Israel’s Health and Tourism Ministries.

“It is time that Israel’s unique advantage as a safe and healthy country starts to assist it in recovering from the economic crisis,” Tourism Minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen said in the joint statement.

Tourism, which fuels a large portion of Israel’s economy, suffered an 81 percent drop in the number of visitors in 2020 than the previous year.

Elana and I cannot wait to host a group of Israel-loving believers, as we have done for years. We are already planning our next tour, trying to get dates from the tour operator with whom we work. We are moving cautiously, as we don’t want people to make plans that they cannot keep. Hopefully, we can do something this fall.

At first, only tour groups will be allowed in because they will be easier to monitor for COVID-19. Individuals desiring to travel throughout Israel will be welcomed in a future phase of the reopening. People will be required to take a PCR test (a nasal swab test with results within 24-72 hours) before boarding the plane and also upon arrival. A blood test to check for antibodies will also be administered after landing in Israel.

The ministries said they would continue to work with nations toward a mutual acceptance of the various vaccination programs around the globe, such as the Russian Sputnik V and the Chinese vaccine, and lift the testing requirements.

Israel has been leading the way internationally in its efforts to vaccinate the population and open for worldwide business again. Farkash-Hacohen hopes this will make Israel an appealing travel destination for tourists. “Only opening the skies for international tourism will truly revive the tourism industry, including restaurants, hotels, sites, tour guides, buses, and others looking to work and provide for their families.”

When the pandemic began to rage around the world in March 2020, Israel not only shut the door to tourists but also to nearly all foreigners, even those with close relatives in the land. Last week, the Population and Immigration Authority said it was easing those restrictions as well. Now visitors and their families can once again enter Israel to see their close relatives, as long as everyone has either recovered from COVID-19 or has been vaccinated.

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