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Back to Normal? Israel Opens to Unvaccinated Tourists

February 21, 2022

by: Ilse Strauss

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A new dawn for the Israeli tourism industry

Monday, 21 February 2022 | Come March 1, the doors to Israel will once again swing open to welcome unjabbed tourists back to the Promised Land, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett announced yesterday. The move winds up a nearly two-year bar on unvaccinated noncitizens entering the Jewish state, and will hopefully serve as a crucial step in resuscitating a decimated tourism industry.

Under the new rules, both vaccinated and unvaccinated visitors will have only two hurdles to clear for entry: a negative PCR test before boarding the flight and taking another test after touching down. A negative result or 24 hours later—whichever comes first—tourists will have the all clear to explore the Promised Land.

Israel first sealed its borders in March 2020, when the first wave of the COVID pandemic crashed onto the nation’s shores, and largely kept them shut for the next year-and-a-half-plus as infection numbers waxed and waned through five waves.

In May 2021, the hard-hit tourism sector saw a brief flicker of light in an otherwise dark tunnel when organized groups were allowed to enter Israel under strict conditions. Yet the capacity was so limited that it could barely be considered a drop in the ocean.

Then, on November 1, the doors swung open to vaccinated and recovered tourists, only to slam shut again a month later in a bid to stop the spread of the Omicron variant.

Israel took another swing at breathing new life into the floundering tourism sector by once again loosening restrictions early in January, welcoming jabbed and recovered visitors. However, the doors remained barred to those who have not been vaccinated.

Now there’s another surge of hope—right in time for Passover and the summer holidays.

Bennett ascribed the decision to reopen to the unvaccinated to the continued fading of the fifth wave of infections fueled by the Omicron variant and declining morbidity rates.

“We see a consistent fall in the infection figures and so this is the time to gradually reopen what we were the first to close,” the prime minister said, following a meeting with Health Minister Nitzan Horowith and Tourism Minister Yoel Razvozov yesterday.

“At the same time, we will keep our finger on the pulse, and in the event of a new variant, we will again react swiftly,” he added.

Various Israeli leaders lauded the decision. “After two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, the time has come to return to a more normal reality and to live alongside this virus, along with appropriate measures to preserve public health. The opening of Israel’s skies is great news for anyone with family in Israel who can now come and celebrate Passover and Purim [Feast of Esther] together here in Israel. We’re waiting for you!” Minister of Diaspora Affairs Nachman Shai said.

At Bridges for Peace, we echo Shai’s sentiments. After two years of a COVID-induced tourism drought, we are so excited to welcome Christian tourists from around the world back to the Promised Land. As Israel takes its first tentative steps into a new normal, and as many around the world rejoice at the prospect of returning to the land and city of God’s heart, we pray for many safe, healthy trips.

Posted on February 21, 2022

Source: (Bridges for Peace, February 21, 2022)

Photo Credit: Keith Chan/Unsplash.com

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