For the first time in more than a year, Israel welcomed a Missouri tour group as part of its decision to gradually reopen borders to vaccinated international tourists.
“Israel is healthy and vaccinated,” Minister of Tourism Orit Farkash-Hacohen told the group at the airport. “Restaurants, hotels, concerts, markets, and sporting venues: everything is open.”
The group is the first in a pilot program launched by the Ministry of Tourism and Ministry of Health to reopen the country to tourists after the COVID-19 pandemic. More groups are expected to arrive in the next two weeks.
“You are the first organized tourist group to visit Israel in over a year,” Farkash-Hacohen said. “Israel is an attractive destination, with unparalleled historic and religious sites sacred to three religions, vibrant cities, amazing food, and warm people. I am sure you will enjoy it all.”
This group is comprised of theology students from the Prince of Peace Church in Missouri. They were greeted by the Tourism Minister who escorted them through the routine immigration procedures as well as the coronavirus tests that all incoming passengers must now take according to Israeli law.
“Thanks for working so hard to be so safe for us. We're very grateful to be here,” said Pastor Tom Zelt from the Prince of Peace Church in Missouri.
“It's incredible. We've been hoping to come out here for a really long time, and it's just a massive blessing to be here, and just to be where Jesus was, it's just incredible,” said Drake Peterson, a tourist from the US.
Israel is leading the world in vaccination, with some 85% of the adult population inoculated. That is being credited with a sharp drop in the spread of COVID-19.
“You are the first of what I am sure will be many tourists returning to the Holy Land,” Farkash-Cohen said. “I hope you all enjoy your trip, and that you encourage others to come visit Israel when you return home.”
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