After more than two years of wearing masks during the COVID pandemic, Israelis were informed that they could take them off – except where they couldn’t.
Similar to the mask confusion in the United States, Israelis continue to deal with changing pandemic rules, based on the latest number of infections, hospitalizations and deaths. According to the Israel Ministry of Health, more than 10,000 people have died from the COVID-19 virus. That’s a fraction of the nearly one million Americans who have died from the disease.
By the end of Passover, the Israeli requirement for indoor masks only applied to hospitals, senior living facilities and air travel. The indoor mask mandate, first established in April 2020, had been set to expire on May 1.
For the increasing number of American tourists finally heading to Israel after, oftentimes several delays, questions still abound. When a federal judge in Florida ruled that masks were no longer required on American transportation modes such as planes, trains and subways, the question of masks on flights to Israel was still left in the air.
Israeli national airlines “El Al still requires masks,” pointed out Cheri Levitan, CEO of Israel-based Kenes Tours. In general, she added, “if the country you’re flying to requires it, you may still have to wear one.”
On her recent flight to Israel, Wendy Yaniv, founder of 5 Senses Tour, reported, “Delta has made it optional. On my Delta flight, many people were without masks, but definitely there were plenty with them. I know El Al is still requiring masks as of now.”
Masking isn’t the only pandemic-provoked prerequisite. Traveling, especially internationally, has required COVID testing, both before flights and after landing – at least at Ben Gurion Airport in Israel.
At press time, Israelis were exempt from COVID-19 testing prior to boarding a flight to Israel, or before entering a border crossing to Israel, according to Israel’s Ministry of Health. That includes those who can present an Israeli passport, an Israeli identity card, or a travel document.
However, non-Israelis are still required to get a negative PCR test within 72 hours of flying to Israel.
Everyone arriving in Israel – again, at press time – was required to take a PCR COVID test when entering Israel. Results are provided within 24 hours, after which a negative result allows the traveler to be released from self-imposed isolation.
However, the Ministry of Health might decide by the end of the month that those PCR tests are no longer required for everyone. The ministry is considering several different options. A sample of travelers might be tested or only those coming from certain countries.
Importantly, American tourists who have managed to travel to Israel in the last year or so will notice one big difference. The Ministry of Health states on its website that people are no longer required to present a Green Pass when entering places and events.
Green passes had been previously issued to those who were up to date on their vaccines or had fully recovered from a COVID infection.
Green passes had previously been automatically issued to tourists who had proof of vaccination or recovery, upon receiving a negative PCR test result on their way out of their country of destination.
The Ministry of Health website is still the best source for updated information and is available in English. The website also provides locations of COVID testing sites for those needing tests prior to leaving Israel and heading for home.