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The Exodus: Tens of thousands of Israelis escape lockdown, fly to Greece, Bulgaria

With Israel shutting down due to COVID-19 just as the borders of Greece and a few other countries opened up, tens of thousands of Israelis took advantage of the opportunity to escape the country’s second lockdown in a half a year. I myself left days before the lockdown for the US, but not to escape the “seger” (lockdown), but to see my aging parents.

According to a Channel 12 report, some 15,000 Israelis flew out last week and another 7,000 over the Rosh Hashanah holiday, with an anticipated 40,000 more to follow over the next two weeks.

The numbers are impressive considering the borders have just opened and the hoops a potential traveler must go through to get permission to enter another country. I can tell you that the airport experience was one of the strangest, most uncomfortable airport experiences of my life. Every traveler must arrive at the airport with a negative coronavirus test within 72 hours of their flight, printed in English with matching passport numbers. 

Israelis can currently only travel to Greece and Bulgaria, if they want to stay close to Israel, without being forced into quarantine upon arrival there or upon return to Israel. I was not forced into quarantine in Virginia, though I was willing. I did get a test (negative!) upon arrival before spending time with my parents. There are also health restrictions in the destination countries, such as masks which are required in public spaces. 

Ticket prices have skyrocketed due to the demand — and Israel’s Ben-Gurion Airport may be closed down entirely during the remainder of the fall holidays if the government tightens restrictions.

Meanwhile, Israel’s borders are shut to foreigners and will remain so for the foreseeable future and businesses in the tourism sector — from hotel to tour guides to souvenir shops — are suffering irreparable damage without the business of either foreign or domestic visitors at the moment.

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