Individual travelers will be welcomed to Israel beginning on July 1.
Pre-Covid, the country had its biggest year ever as it welcomed 4.5 million tourists in 2019. An amazing feat for a country of just 9 million. The country hopes to rebuild those numbers over the next two years.
“The time has come for Israel to open up to tourism and to take advantage of its status as a vaccinated country for the benefit of its economy,” Tourism Minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen tweeted.
The move follows what is being considered a successful pilot project that allowed 20 groups of up to 20 vaccinated tourists each into Israel. That’s already been expanded to bring another 1000 visitors in groups by the end of the month. But the latest decision will permit individual tourists to travel alone into the country for the first time since the pandemic began.
Currently, only vaccinated tourists and not those who have recovered from COVID will be allowed in, “The Jerusalem Post” reports. They must present proof of vaccination before boarding their flight and take a test. Authorities have indicated that could change as Israel’s vaccination rate, already the highest in the world continues to rise.
The covid rate in Israel has fallen to just 1 case per 100,000 people meaning the pandemic there is over, according to news reports.
Pastor Tom Zelt has led dozens of study tours to Israel, but this time he and his students from the Concordia Seminary in St. Louis was the first group to return after more than a year of COVID-19 closures. “We were honored in such a way that I didn’t even expect to be greeted, with flowers and escorted through the airport,” he said.
Israel Experts was the tour company that won the lottery to bring Zelt’s group. “We really feel proud and privileged to bring to the Holy Land the first tourist group after the very long coronavirus pandemic,” CEO Adi Aharoni said. .“We are really looking forward to welcoming more and more tourists from around the globe that can enjoy everything Israel can offer.
Metro Voice publisher Anita Widaman is leading a tour to Israel in October. “Right now, almost all of those registered for the tour are vaccinated,” stated Widaman. “We have one couple who is waiting until the end of July to see if Israel’s vaccination requirement will still be in force.”
Widaman says the demand for the tour has been strong. “We have just three or four spots left,” she says, noting the Christian news site has another tour scheduled for March 2022.
When those tours arrive in Israel, they’ll find a country back to normal.
Hassan Madah, who heads the American Department of the Tourism Ministry, said most Israelis are vaccinated and Israel is returning to normal, with restaurants and tourist sites open.
“We hope that soon we can also go back to 2019, where we have tourists coming without doing anything, just booking a flight and hotel,” he said. “We are excited. We wish to see more people, and we’re working on that, getting more people here. Let’s hope that people can come from the United State and from other countries also, and the cases will go down all over the world.”
Israel remains one of the safest countries in the world to visit.
–Dwight Widaman | Metro Voice