Israel To Remain Closed To Most Foreign Nationals Through Shavuos And Then Will Reopen For Vaccinated Organized Tour Groups

Photo Credit: Askii [CC BY-SA 3.0], from Wikimedia Commons
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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?

HT: tavster, via DDF

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117 Comments On "Israel To Remain Closed To Most Foreign Nationals Through Shavuos And Then Will Reopen For Vaccinated Organized Tour Groups"

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Closed today is fair to share. What’ll be after Shavous is not predictable…


Will you visit Israel as part of an organized tour group under this exemption? What do you think of Israel’s cautious reopening process? RIDICULOUS!

So, according to what I understand, if I own an apartment in Israel and want to go I will now have to be part of a tour! Otherwise, I can’t just go! Considering 60% of country is vaccinated and supposedly country may soon have herd immunity, I just don’t get it!

Dan\'s the Man

There are always risks of buying property in a country where you are not a citizen. I know know people who have been living in Israel by keep extending their tourist visa for 20+ years. They always said to me there is no risk. Now during carona he hasn’t been able to leave the country because he wouldn’t have been let back in…

Berry Stahl

I guess Israel thinks that an individual who travels to Israel and takes the necesssary tests and is negative is a greater risk than a travel group of visitors. I guess they really don’t care about some of us to travel there 7-10 times a year or are taking us for granted that we’ll be running hands over feet to get there when they “open” up. We”ll see. I’m done with them.

Dan\'s the Man

You’ll be back and you’ll be back fast.


“Travelers will need to prove that they were vaccinated, take a PCR test before and after arrival, and take an antibody test after arrival.”

Do they also need to show a letter from an insurance company stating that COVID is covered under that policy in Israel? Because this has become a problem … all regular health insurance companies only list EXCLUSIONS to what is covered, they don’t list everything that IS covered. So people end up having to buy separate insurance from an agent that is willing to include a letter stating that COVID is covered under that policy.

Kalman Staiman

This, at least among all this craziness, doesn’t seem to be so much of an obstacle. The travelers’ insurance policy costs less than $25 for two people on a two week trip.


Wow! Where did you find a quote for $12.50 a week for two???? That’s incredibly low.

Kal — I don’t understand the economics of it, but I guess the overwhelming majority of people who take out a policy don’t end up needing it. At that price there’s no trip cancellation insurance…just coverage for illness. (My tickets are re-bookable at this point, and I have no non-refundable expenditures on hotels etc.)


Thank you Dan for all the minute by minute updates. Cancelling my tickets as well since one of my kids definitely does not have antibodies


What about children who tested positive on an antibodies test but hadn’t tested positive for COVID?


So they don’t want us to visit our family in Israel. So far all of the permission they grant are not practical and are to appease the olim living in Israel. Our entire family has recovered from Covid within the last three months, my wife and I both have siblings living in Israel and we still can’t get permission. The embassy tells us there is no way to get around the appostile documents requirements. We would need documents verified from multiple states, including Pennsylvania which has a 6-8 week wait. This is besides for the fact that I was born in Israel, but I am not an Israeli citizen. So my American born abroud birth certificate doesn’t have a state associated with it.
We will need to hope they change the policy before out flights on May 10th.


It’s a good start. Organized tours are a big part of the tourism economy and I’m sure hotel owners/tour operators lobbied hard to get it going.


I’d like to know how Anti-vaxxers will respond


You mean the one’s in Israel paying other people to take it for them???
When ther’s a will ther’s a way


We had hoped to take our 14 year old this July – it would be his first time. If we can’t vaccinate him then he may not be able to come. Hoping and davening things will change soon….

reb yid

What’s considered an organized tour group? If I sign up with Chaim Yankel, registered tour guide, as a family of six, and never actually travel with him, will that work?


The part that’s really surprising about their re-opening is the lack of exemption for kids. It makes sense to require vaccination and take antibody tests, but it is impossible for kids to be vaccinated so it is shocking that they’re still requiring them to quarantine- especially since kids spread COVID much less. And especially if they are travelling with vaccinated parents- the risk that they pose is almost zilch. Especially with most of the population vaccinated. It basically means that anyone with a kid can’t visit Israel for probably close to another YEAR from now, and this will massively hurt the tourism season and to a large extent wipes it out. Very surprising and costly move for Israel, the risk-reward here doesn’t begin to make sense


I have a 1st degree relative but can’t apostille, i was not born in the USA. This tourist group would mean that I need to come and go with an organized group or i just need to signup with them?


What if an adult or child tested positive and have proof of covid test but has no antibodies?


“While my wife and I do qualify to visit under the vaccinated first degree relative exemption..”

Leave the kids with relatives??
(Says the guy who never leaves his kids..)


I have a family trip scheduled for July with 2 children under 12, I guess I should plan on not being able to go 🙁


How long does the permission thing take to apply if you have a first degree relative? And if you don’t have your exact dates of travel, should I still apply for the permission?

Also, what do you need an apostille for?


The rules say to put in the application 2 weeks before the flight. I don’t know if that means max 2 weeks, or at least 2 weeks. But you have to have include your flight booking info as part of the application, so you wouldn’t apply if you haven’t booked yet.

Apostille is for (internationally recognized) certification of a document such as a birth certificate, which you would use to document the relationship. Everyone is upset about this because it takes so long to get now (e.g. 8 weeks for PA, NY State is not quite so bad) and the apostille usually comes from the same building that issued the original document, so why the extra step? Maybe there’s been a rash of fraudulent US birth certificates being used to illegally gain access to Israel in the last year, but I haven’t read anything about it.

Orrin d

Birth certificate usually originates with city of birth. Apostille comes from respective state capitol


In New york city, you have to get the birth certificate plus letter of exemplification from one agency, then have it verified by the county clerk in your borough, then have it apostilled by the NY department of state in Manhattan.. Some of those steps must be in person and they may require appointments. And they don’t answer phones if you have questions.
If you need to get a marriage record too, even more agencies are involved.
Then you have the pleasure of applying to the consulate which is famously slow.
My brother is still stuck getting some of his papers together and doesn’t want to book a flight until he has them, but you have to apply with a booked flight and insurance.
He’s so upset!


Thanks for responding. So I was born in England and got married there. I am now a us citizen living in NYC. So am I going to be able to get an alostille stamp for these documents?

A few years ago I hired a guy to get me a document done for a visa I needed


While I am glad they are taking such great care of us Israelis, it would be really nice to see my son, daughter-in-law and grandkids before they forget who I am. Proving that you recovered from Corona can only be done with the antibody test as far as I know. Doing blood draws on the kids is not the most pleasant way to kick off an uncertain trip to Savta’s.


do people in a tour group spread covid less then other people? just wondering


They do not. Though it’s possible that the type of person that would travel in a group is less susceptible to being a spreader.

Betty R Sinowitz

What is the Apostille of proof that one has a daughter in Israel? What is the process to get that.


Presumably, a (re)certification of her birth certificate, which is proof of your relationship. If she made aliyah in the past couple of years she has that already, since it’s been a requirement for aliya for about that long. If she’s been there longer, she may be able to get it through the consulate. (But if she’s there on a student visa, I don’t know if that qualifies you to get in.)


Crazy question, but any chance Israel will open up if I have an uncle or cousin there?


Do you think in August the border will be opened for people that haven’t gotten the vaccine?

shmuel aron

I respectfully would like to remind the people who left comments, that Israel is a sovereign country and makes its regulations based on what it perceives to be in the best interests of its population. While we like and even need tourists and visitors it is up to us to make the rules and not people outside the country who if something Chas Ve’Chalila happens, will not have to live with the consequences.

And to the poster who said, “I’m done with them”, all I can say is BYE!


@Dan , what do you think the odds are of American launching by 5/6? What is your level of confidence of them flying in late June? TIA!


People wildly overestimate the importance of tourism to the IL economy. In actuality, tourism represents 2-3% of local GDP.


What about to the Israeli Charedi tourism sector?

Orrin d

Does that include the yeshiva year?


Hi I want to go with my husband to visit my parents who are older and have dual citizenship. We are not vaccinated and over 60 what will we need


Are there any work-arounds to the Apostille requirement? Wait time for NYC birth certificate apostille can be upwards of 60 days. And, it seems that the birth certificate must be in a certain format along with a ‘etter of exemplification,’ whatever that is. That would mean that my son’s original offical certificate might not work.
Does anyone know of a reliable shortcut or workaround that doesn’t cost as much as the plane ticket?

S katz

Dan if i book with aa for a flight from tlv-nyc for early June, and they don’t start flying by then, do they rebook you with another airline for free, or just refund you ticket?


no! Way to much risk of problems for a tourist visit.


Dan, my first degree relative is my brother, any idea what documentation I need to have apostle to prove that? Do I need both of our birth certificates?


I would think that you would need both of yours, to show that you have parents in common. I can’t think of a better way (or even any other official way) to show that you are siblings.

Yitz Preis

Can someone add some clarity? The rules state proof of first degree relation. For a parent, what is that? For a sibling, what is that? Do they want the birth certificate of the relative in Israel or mine?


None of these questions are answered specifically on the official websites. But I don’t think they would care which way it goes. E.g. I have daughters and my mother in Israel. I should be able to use my BC to show my relation to my mother, or my daughter’s to prove her relation to me. Either way the BC needs to have an apostille. You also need documentation from the Israeli citizen (their teudat zehut or passport) but presumably since Israel issues those documents it doesn’t seem like they’re requiring any further authorization on them.


Dan, Can you explain the recommendation of the spike antibody test? Excuse my ignorance but is that the same as standard antibody testing?


so does that mean one can get a refund for travel booked thru american airlines for shavous? or is it possible anything could change


dan do you think there is a chance things will change and open up for shavous?


Dan what I’m the world is isreal thinking
How about let’s make sure USA should stop letting in any isreal passengers but NOW and when isreal will open to us like a normal kid will let them back in
Isreal is full off sh*t they think they no everything hashem is in charge relax and open up now or we will close on you !!!


Has anyone just submitted an notarized birth/marriage certificate, not an apostille and been excepted?!


Dan, I had covid. After I took the first Moderna vaccine, my ant-bodies skyrocketed. There are studies that show that for those who had covid, qne vaccine is sufficient. The question that I have is, will it be sufficient for entry to Israel, if ur proof of vaccination shows that you were vaccinated only once.


I have tickets for Shavuot as well, I guess we’ll try to change it for Winter Break


@Dan I see conflicting reports that quarantine time is 10 or 14 days (getting entry permit as a student). Do you know which is correct? Thanks


Does anyone know if I can use an apostilled marriage license as proof of having my parents as first degree relatives. My marriage license has my father’s name on it as my father.


Yes the consulate told me that a marimage certificate with apostild eal works, problem is that mine from rampo des not have my parents name. They also told me that notary ona birth cert is ok



What about the non stop Chicago TLV route scheduled to start early May?


is there any way a UK citizen could come to the US for a business meeting?


I came back from Israel last week. very easy arrival. No one ask question. I was in Israel last time Chanuka the airport was full with agent asking questions. I was supposed to be in quarantine till I did the Antibody test and few hours later I was released with no issue. Th eonly one that ask Question is the dep. airport.

Matt H

are you an Israeli citizen tho?

Matt H

What does the Entry Permit look like? Is it just an email from the Consulate?

And has anyone arrived into Israel and made it through customs… did they look you up in a database to see that you have the entry permit?
Can you just quarantine for 14 days without the need for the permit?

Thanks so much!

S katz

any updates with aa launch date for tlv?


I had a trip to Israel booked for myself, my husband and two grandchildren for this Wednesday night on American. One of my granddaughters in not yet 12 and is not vaccinated. When I called now to cancel I was told that the vouchers are good only for 12 months from the date of purchase-January 25- and not the date of the flight.
I can only take the children in the summer time. Do I have any options?