Tourism Minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein announced that Israel will continue the next phase in its reopening process on May 23rd when they will welcome organized tour groups consisting of vaccinated travelers.
Travelers will need to prove that they were vaccinated, take a PCR test before and after arrival, and take an antibody test after arrival. My assumption is that proof of recovery with a positive PCR test would also work and that children would also need proof of recovery.
Antibody tests are not instant, so I’d guess that the group would have to quarantine for the first day until they got back the results. I’d strongly recommend that travelers take a spike antibody test in the US to ensure they won’t have to quarantine for 2 weeks in Israel should they discover they don’t have antibodies.
Israel feels that it will be easier to monitor travelers’ health if they are in a group setting. It also means that Israel will be able to reopen to groups like Birthright Israel this summer.
I can’t say that I have ever had much of a desire to go on a group tour of a country, but it’s good to see Israel continuing their reopening process.
Of course the implication of today’s news is Israel will remain closed to foreign nationals for Shavuos on May 17th, unless you qualify with a first degree in Israel. That exemption began on April 7th, so Israel is allowing 45 days to see the results of the current phase before moving onto the next phase.
I’ve taken my family to Israel for Shavuos several times, but had to cancel our tickets last year due to the pandemic. While my wife and I do qualify to visit under the vaccinated first degree relative exemption, we’ll have to cancel our tickets again this year as there is no exemption for unvaccinated or unrecovered children. Luckily, award tickets can be refunded with no fees these days!
But as we say in Cleveland, there’s always next year.
With 60% of Israel’s total population vaccinated, including some 80% of the vaccine eligible population, I had hoped that Israel would take advantage of their front runner status and reopen their borders more expeditiously. After all, new COVID cases have plummeted in the country from 10,000 daily just 3 months ago to under 200 daily cases. Reopening when other parts of the world remain closed would be a huge boon for Israel’s economy.
Now it seems that this summer’s tourist season may also be in jeopardy for families unless your children happen to have tested positive on a COVID PCR test.
Will we see American push off their planned May 6th Israel flight launch due to today’s news?
Will you visit Israel as part of an organized tour group under this exemption? What do you think of Israel’s cautious reopening process?