Photograph by Aline Fortuna/Shutterstock
Winter holidays in Tel Aviv? It could be possible this season.
In a bid to revive a struggling tourism industry, Israel is finally welcoming (fully vaccinated) travelers back, just in time for the holidays.
For the first time in 18 months, vaccinated travelers from the United States can travel to Israel without being part of an approved tour group.
Back in May, Israel tentatively opened its doors to a select number of smaller tour groups through a pilot reopening program, but now any vaccinated foreigner, including those traveling from the U.S., is allowed to enter the country given they follow a few guidelines.
To enter Israel, travelers must have been fully vaccinated within the past six months with either two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or with one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine—and they should be prepared to present a physical or digital version of their vaccination certificate. Those who have recently recovered from COVID-19 and those who have recovered and received at least one dose of WHO-approved vaccines will also be allowed to travel to Israel.
Additionally, travelers must take a COVID-19 PCR test no more than 72 hours before their outbound flight to Israel, fill out a passenger declaration form, and take another PCR test upon arrival. Visitors will be asked to quarantine in a hotel until their results return or until 24 hours pass—whichever comes first. It should also be noted that anyone who presents falsified documents or bucks Israel’s COVID isolation policies will be banned from the country for a period of five years, according to Israel’s Ministry of Health.
Authorities hope opening the country’s gates to a larger swath of travelers will breathe new life into the struggling tourism industry. Before the pandemic, the holiday season in a typical year would bring hundreds of thousands to Bethlehem, considered the biblical birthplace of Jesus, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
Israel had hoped to reopen to tourists last spring but delayed the move amid a spike in cases driven by the highly contagious Delta variant. Israel has since rolled out a booster campaign in which nearly half the population has received a third vaccine dose.
Israel has just emerged from its third COVID surge and reported nearly 42,000 COVID cases in the past month, well below the country’s peak of 220,000 cases, which it experienced in January 2021, according to Johns Hopkins University.
“We have been awaiting this moment, to bring back international travelers into our country, for a very long time now,” said Yoel Razvozov, Israel’s Minister of Tourism. “We’re ecstatic to share our country with everyone once again.”
International travel requirements and restrictions continue to evolve throughout the pandemic. Check the U.S. State Department’s detailed COVID-19 travel information and country-specific advisories, which are updated regularly.
Additionally, all international passengers age two and older flying into the U.S., including returning U.S. citizens and permanent residents, must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test before boarding their flight to the United States.
The CDC also has detailed recommendations for travel during the pandemic, both for vaccinated and unvaccinated travelers.
The Associated Press contributed reporting.
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