The Holy Land is about to be open to tourists—wide open—once again! Israel authorities announced this week that starting March 1, tourists, regardless of COVID-19 vaccination status, will be welcomed back to the Land. This is great news for the tourism industry, which has been crippled by the restrictions over the last two years.
Starting next Tuesday (March 1), vaccinated and unvaccinated visitors of all ages will be allowed into the country, on the condition they submit a negative PCR test before boarding and take one once they land at Ben Gurion International in Tel Aviv.
It’s also good news for Israelis—a covid test will not be required before boarding, but one will still be necessary after arriving in the land. Unvaccinated Israelis will also not have to quarantine upon their return, as long as their test at Ben Gurion Airport is negative.
The tourist news comes as part of an overall shift in the Israeli government’s approach to COVID-19—transitioning to a posture of living alongside coronavirus rather than trying to stamp it out altogether.
After more than two years of living under a COVID-19 state of emergency, the government has agreed to end that status and move to a new method of oversight, where if there is a need for any future measures or restrictions due to coronavirus, they will have to be approved by the Knesset or the Law and Justice Committee.
“I am happy that the prime minister has responded positively to the requests of thousands of families around the world, Jews and non-Jews alike, who have sought to meet up once again after a long period of separation caused in part by restrictions such as the ban on entry for unvaccinated children,” Minister of Diaspora Affairs Nachman Shai said.
“After two years of the Covid-19 pandemic, the time has come to return to a more normal reality and to live alongside this virus, along with appropriate measures to preserve public health. The opening of Israel’s skies is great news for anyone with family in Israel who can now come and celebrate Passover and Purim together here in Israel. We’re waiting for you!” Shai said.
Many in the Messianic community, and other believers across the Land, have been particularly impacted by Israel’s closed borders since early 2020. Many who used to work as tour guides or operated tour companies have struggled to find other work for the last two years, but since Israel started easing the restrictions at the first of the year, the tourism industry is showing signs of coming back to life.
“The sites that had limitations are now expanding their hours and every tour operator in the country is looking for new employees,” David Katz, deputy general manager of the Sar-El tour company said in an interview with All Israel News. “The buses are all revved up and the guides are brushing up on their knowledge of the sites.”
But even as tours are starting to ramp up again, Katz estimates that it will take a least a year for the tourism economy to rev back up the record levels it reached in 2019, right before corona hit. For our brothers and sisters and all those in the tourism industry who are still struggling to make ends meet (in a land where the cost of groceries is the 6th highest in the world!), it will be at least six months—and probably more—before things start to really improve.