For First Time Since Pandemic, Israel Welcomes In Tourists

YERUSHALAYIM -
Travelers seen arriving at Ben Gurion International Airport, Monday. (Tomer Neuberg/FLASH90)

Israel on Monday opened its borders for the first time since March 2020 to tourists who are vaccinated against COVID-19 or have recovered from the disease.

The vast majority of tourists have effectively been banned from entering Israel since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. The reopening of borders has been delayed numerous times throughout the year, as COVID infections waxed and waned.

The move is seen as a vital step to somewhat restoring Israel’s tourism industry, which has been devastated by the pandemic and accompanying restrictions.

The Tourism Ministry welcomed Monday’s reopening, saying that “throughout the global corona pandemic, interest in visiting Israel has remained high and Israel’s Ministry of Tourism has worked hard to find creative solutions to facilitate the safe return of tourists.”

The ministry said that in recent months it had put in place a trial program with “several thousand tourists, primarily from the U.S.A. and Europe, visiting Israel’s religious, historical, cultural and natural sites within a safe and tourist-friendly environment.”

However, not all tourists will immediately be eligible to visit Israel, and those that do come will face restrictions.

Only tourists from countries that aren’t defined as “red” due to high infection rates will be allowed in, although currently there are no countries labeled as such.

Under the new regulations, only tourists who have been vaccinated during the 180 days before they boarded the plane will be allowed to enter Israel. Fourteen days days must elapse between the traveler’s second or third shot and entry to Israel.

Israel appears to be at the tail end of its fourth coronavirus wave, as new infections and serious cases have ticked down over the past few weeks.