TEL AVIV, Israel – The COVID pandemic has devastated the global tourism industry. For more than a year, the pandemic has kept tourists coming to Israel. Now, Israel’s Tourism Ministry has a plan to re-open Israel to the world.
“We are starting the first pilot on the 23rd of May,” said Israel’s Tourism Minister, Orit Farkash-Hacohen. “It will take place for a few weeks, by which we will bring in no more than 20 or more groups of tourists, fully vaccinated, with travel agents so that you can be monitored on one hand and we can also learn from the lessons and improve the rule.”
If this pilot goes well, then about a month later an unlimited number of groups will be allowed in. By July, it’s possible Israel will open its doors to individuals.
Israel’s re-opening comes after its aggressive vaccination campaign where most of the population has been vaccinated and COVID rates have dropped dramatically. They want to protect their success.
“Israel is now fully open, the attractions, the restaurants, the hotels. Our numbers of COVID-19 are getting fewer and fewer every day. We’re waiting for you to come,” said Farkash-Hacohen.
However, incoming tourists will have to jump through some hoops. The plan requires tourists to be fully vaccinated. They must have a negative COVID test before boarding the flight and then take a serology test on arrival.
Nearly half of all tourists who come to Israel are Christian. For millions of Christians around the world, coming to Israel is like a dream.
“I want to say to Christians around the world that Israel is missing you and is looking forward to you coming and seeing all the sacred places and the history,” said Farkash-Hacohen.
Yet some American Christians are reluctant to get vaccinated.
“Unfortunately, I don’t have very optimistic messages for them,” Farkash-Hacohen said. “Israel is now in a very, very good condition health-wise. It’s a very healthy destination and we cannot put that in danger.”
While it’s a small start, Israel hopes to welcome millions of visitors to the Holy Land again.
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