Israel May Finally Open Up to Tourists in November

Israel May Finally Open Up to Tourists in November

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the tourism industry particularly hard.

Travelers arriving at the Ben Gurion International Airport in Israel, stand in line to get a Covid19 check upon arrival. July 01, 2021. Photo by Nati Shohat/FLASH90
Travelers arriving at the Ben Gurion International Airport in Israel, stand in line to get a Covid19 check upon arrival. July 01, 2021. Photo by Nati Shohat/FLASH90

Unless something drastic or unexpected occurs – such as an outbreak of hostilities with its neighbors or a sudden surge in COVID-19 – Israel will open up for tourists in November.

“The tourism industry in Israel has been bombarded with information related to the government protocol for incoming tourists,” said Cheri Levitan, CEO of Israel-based Kenes Tours. However, “the official revised protocol will not be published until November.” From what Atlanta-based Levitan is hearing, significant changes are expected to be announced that will make it easier for U.S. citizens to travel to Israel.

Cheri Scheff Levitan of Kenes Tours has had to be a clairvoyant to predict new Israeli travel restrictions.For instance, upon landing in Tel Aviv, visitors will no longer be required to undergo serological testing at Ben Gurion Airport. Quarantining will not be required. Anyone who has received a COVID-19 booster will be permitted to enter the country. “Ben Gurion Airport [who are] part of a tourist group organized by an authorized Israeli tour operator like Kenes Tours will be permitted to visit Israel no matter when they received their last vaccine,” Levitan said.

In general, she added, “for groups whose members all either had a booster or had their last vaccine no more than six months prior to arrival in Israel, the bureaucratic processing will be minimal, and entry will be streamlined.”

When it occurs, the easing of requirements for individuals or groups of tourists will be a huge relief to Israel’s tourism industry, which was hit particularly hard by the pandemic. At times, Israel practically closed its borders. In 2020 alone, the number of tourists dropped nearly 100 percent, with a loss of billions of dollars.

Potential tourists have been bewildered by Israel’s timeline for letting them in, according to Mark Feldman, Jerusalem district director of Diesenhaus Unitours.

Just a couple of months ago, Israel started allowing in small groups of organized tours as an experiment, but the constantly changing regulations continued to plague the industry. “So many organizations want to send groups to Israel but have been stymied by the complete lack of clear instructions when the country will open up and under what circumstances,” said Mark Feldman, director of the Jerusalem district for Diesenhaus Unitours, in August. “It’s nothing short of deplorable that our government continues to speak out of both sides of the mouth, leaving potential tourists bewildered by when Israel will allow them in.”

This conundrum could be solved soon, and the timing couldn’t be better for the industry. Jewish tourists can hopefully start making plans to be in Israel for Chanukah, starting the end of November, and Christians can plan their trips to the Holy Land for the Christmas holiday.

“We hope to have more concrete and specific guidelines from the November within the next couple of weeks,” said Levitan.

Tourists from Europe, however, will have an easier time entering Israel than those from the U.S. The first group of tourists to be allowed in will most likely come from countries with reciprocal agreements that include digitized vaccination records. Since the U.S. doesn’t have a national digitized system, it may be more complicated. At this point, it seems that individual American tourists will be required to fill out the online forms through the Israeli Ministry of Health website, in the same way that first-degree relatives of Israeli citizens have been required to do during the pandemic.

Residents of New York and California, which have digital “green passport” systems, may have an easier time than the rest of their countrymen.
Once in Israel, tourists will need to follow local mandates, such as wearing masks indoors. To enter public venues such as hotels, restaurants, conferences, bars, tourist attractions, and synagogues holding more than 50 people, Israelis as well as tourists also are required to show a Green Pass. Alex Gandler, deputy consul general of the Consulate General of Israel to the Southeast, notes that the changes in that program came into effect in early October. Due to those changes, anyone holding a Green Pass dated prior to Oct. 3 needs to reapply for a new one. Instructions to obtain the Green Pass can be found at

Essentially, Green Pass eligibility is for those who have been vaccinated or those who have recovered outside of Israel. The validity of the pass depends on the number of vaccine doses that person has received, and on the results of COVID testing in Israel.

Despite the complexities, Levitan is optimistic. “Let’s hope when the policy is announced, it will be clearer and all-inclusive,” she told the AJT.

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