There have been several interesting reports of flying to Israel on the DansDeals Facebook Group. I figured that it would be worth sharing a couple of them for those who aren’t part of the group.
“Shalom from quarantine in Tel Aviv!
In case this is helpful, I wanted to share our experience coming to Israel from New York 11 days ago – my two sons ages 7 and 10 and I (I’m a single mom). Before you ask, yes, we are Israeli citizens and we came to attend my oldest son’s tekes kumta as he is a lone soldier serving as a combat medic in the paratroopers, who we haven’t seen in almost one year.
Also, we had covid-19 in March but tested negative in May so hopefully we have antibodies to the extent they are helpful. We flew on El Al (which had special flights twice per week in most of June) from JFK to Tel Aviv on June 11th. Our experience at JFK was positive. It was well organized. Social distancing was kept and everyone wore masks. Not many wearing gloves but hand sanitizer dispensers were available everywhere. I think all of the shops in the airport were closed except the newsstand.
As we were boarding, someone from El Al was checking everyone’s temperature with a no contact thermometer gun. However, the flight was fully booked. Every single seat was taken. In our case, we were 3 in my family so we sat together with no neighbors but of course the seats in front and behind us were all taken. The flight attendants all wore hazmat suits, masks and visors. The passengers were told that we must wear masks at all times. I brought our own masks. Didn’t see anyone from El Al offering masks. Occasionally the flight attendants would go down the aisles and remind people who had taken off their masks to put them back on. I also brought sanitizer wipes and we wiped down all our seats and trays where possible.
I couldn’t get any advance information about whether meals would be provided so I brought lots of snacks for my kids. El Al did provide one boxed meal and that’s it. Water, drinks and some snacks were available in an open area near the bathrooms but were not handed out individually.
During the meal, obviously passengers had to take off their masks. For all these reasons, if you have any health issues or vulnerabilities, personally I would not recommend you fly at all if you can avoid it, as I’ve told my parents. I’ve heard on Delta or United they are leaving some seats empty intentionally but I have not verified that.
When we arrived at Ben Gurion Airport, again, it was pretty organized but many passengers ignored social distancing. There were two lines, one for Israeli citizens and another for non-Israeli citizens so I have to assume the latter received advance permission to enter but again, I can’t comment further on that. In passport control, they now have machines so no human interactions other than dropping off a ticket from those machines to staff as we walked out of the passport control area. Then we waited in an area set up by the Health Ministry to get our private quarantine accommodations approved.
In our case, unfortunately our relatives were not able to host us because my uncle is elderly and has health issues to we didn’t want to risk his health. So before waiting on the long line, I asked one of the officials about the government’s quarantine hotels and was immediately taken to a different line where the Ministry of Health took all our information and asked us to wait while they provided water and some snacks.
We were told that we would be going to the Dan Hotel in Jerusalem in about 30 minutes but then for an unknown reason, they changed it to the Dan Hotel in Tel Aviv. About an hour later, a bus was provided (with a huge wall between us and the driver who had a separate door as well) and a large group of us boarded it, trying to sit in a way that kept social distancing. There were about 5 or 6 young men in my group who were joining the army. The others were citizens like me. No new olim from what I could gauge but they may have stayed back at the airport to finish the aliya paperwork. I don’t know.
At the hotel we were greeted by another official from the Health Ministry who gave us a briefing in English and Hebrew of what to expect during the next 14 days, along with handouts offered in Hebrew, English and Russian with all the quarantine rules. We received our keys, were asked if we have any food allergies, and went to our rooms. As we are three people, we were given one room with an extra cot but then the staff came to us and said it was too small for 3 people and they moved us two adjoining rooms with balconies facing the sea (which after nearly 4 months of quarantine in NYC, I can tell you that the sea air is truly intoxicating). Honestly having my children be able to sit on the balconies for some time every day is one of the few things that kept us all sane (even though seeing everyone outside our balcony at the beach, swimming, playing sports, on their scooters, doing yoga, etc. made us a little envious…). Plus my sons were still doing online school last week and friends dropped off some games and toys for the boys to occupy themselves with when I try to pry them away from the TV (at least the cartoons are in Hebrew so they are educational, LOL) or their tablets.
There is WiFi so I am still working remotely. Meals are provided 3 times a day and are tasty. Shabbat was a bit problematic because we are not allowed to light candles in the room and no grape juice was provided (hence my failed attempt to order some items online, see below). I did tell the hotel when we checked it that we are Shomer Shabbat but maybe there are other hotels that are better suited. The Dan Hotel is well known but a bit run down and dirty but after I cleaned it up a bit myself, it’s fine. But glad we brought flip flops as the carpets need to be cleaned… We cannot leave our rooms.
We have laundry detergent to do our own laundry in the bathroom sink but I packed enough for us for 14 days so that has not been an issue. Twice a week we can leave our towels and sheets in a bag outside our doors and they are replaced with clean ones. When we run of water, milk, toilet paper, etc, we ask the operator to send more up. Friends and families can leave packages with the security guard downstairs. I tried to order online for some extra items but without an Israeli cellphone number, it didn’t work. We get a call 2 to 3 times per day from the staff of the Health Ministry that is located in the hotel lobby. I’m very grateful for the hotel and the meals, which are all free.
We have 2 days left of quarantine and then we will see our lone soldier, G-d willing, when he has leave for Shabbat to go to his kibbutz (Lavi) before army bases close down again for 30 days as there is a second wave of Covid-19 now in Israel. We’ve asked for special permission to attend my son’s Tekes Kumta (because we did 2 weeks of quarantine) in case it’s closed to families and am waiting to hear back. I’ve sublet an apartment for a month in Netanya before we return to NYC at the end of July. Happy to answer questions to the extent I can but please no negative comments. Hope everyone stays safe and healthy!
There was no way to reserve the hotel in advance or choose the hotel; there is a small fridge and electric kettle in my room, for which the hotel provides tea bags, instant coffee, sugar and milk.”
“I see that everyone wants this information so:
We arrived Monday to Israel, and are in home quarantine. We are Israeli with Israeli passports. Feel free to ask me whatever questions I can help with. I have no idea how to help with non-Israeli passports, all I can detail is what it is like for Israeli passport holders.
1) We flew United from Newark. They won’t even let you on the plane without prior permission from the embassy/consulate if you have a foreign passport, and separate passport holders before you even get on- to make sure everyone has entry permits. Israeli passport holders are just waved through.
2) United makes everyone wear masks the entire flight except for eating/drinking. They would provide you with masks if you did not have, and they repeatedly said if someone is unmasked to speak to the crew about it.
3) There were 2 prepackaged meals (from Fresko and they were really good, amazing cheese omelet (delicious) and the chicken / broccoli / potatoes, as well as giant black and white cookies. Definitely great meals), sealed cans and bottles of water. No alcohol or hot drinks at all.
4) Flight was uneventful, was mostly full. There were little to no seats blocked off- I did not see any, although there were some empty seats, it wasn’t purposeful middle seats or things like that.
5) When landing, they reminded travelers that a) you need a permit with a foreign passport b) no one who had visited Asia or Italy in the last 21 days would be allowed in unless they just transited through the airport. This was unclear if it applied to citizens as well as foreign passport holders.
6) In the airport there were 4 stops: a) facial scan recognition like normal with machines b) temperature check and COVID19 question check (were you exposed to someone with COVID, do you have symptoms etc) c) a line where you filled in the Ministry of Health forms (info provided on signs and with QR codes for direct links) for home quarantine, one for each member of the family including kids (I filled it out identically except for ID numbers for each person) and d) a final check where they again asked the COVID19 questions, asked about the home quarantine, reminded us of all the rules, asked if we had transportation home and how to do it (sit in back, masked, windows open), and confirmed that my forms were submitted appropriately (there are confirmation numbers emailed to you on each form).
7) We so far have been checked on every single day at random times (we are on day 2) by a phone call and then a drive by the apartment to prove that we are staying home. They show up to check about 30 seconds after calling.
Going to enjoy the rest of our 14 days at home and staying home!”