I’ve had Tel Aviv at the top of my “must return” list since before the pandemic started. Unfortunately, it’s still there and may be for a while.
I’ve managed to visit countless other places, but travel restrictions for Israel remain cumbersome, and in some cases, downright prohibitive, even for the fully vaccinated.
With news that an imminent reopening is upon us, I was sure I’d finally be able to cross it off my to-do list., ut after looking at the new entry rules, I’m still ineligible, all down to a tricky technicality which will undoubtedly complicate the plans of others.
Israel Reopening Travel, Kind Of?
Israel is set to reopen an initial phase of travel on November 1st. A second phase will kick off on November 21st. For those who qualify, it’s as open as the country has been in two years, and will mark an exciting rebirth of travel.
The big headline is that “vaccinated travelers from most European countries and a few US states can visit Israel again”, starting November 1st. The very tricky part though is it all depends on when you got vaccinated — and many will be ineligible.
If your final shot was more than 6 months ago, Israel deems you ineligible to skip out on quarantine or extra testing measures. Until the 21st of November, you can’t even enter if this applies.
So if you’re fully vaccinated with the best possible cocktail combination of vaccines, and recovered from covid-19 too, but all that stuff took place more than 6 months ago, you’re out of luck for visiting Israel — for now.
Israel specifies that fully vaccinated means at least 11-14 days before entering the country (depending on which vaccine) and no more than 180 days after receiving the final dose (all vaccines). For people vaccinated in February, March, April or May this is already a significant problem.
Essentially, anyone wishing to visit Israel who received their primary schedule of vaccination more than 6 months ago will need a booster shot to enter, or will need to wait until November 21st, when people hoping to visit Israel can opt for regular testing regimes.
Once You Get Beyond Those Hurdles…
Once beyond the moving target hurdle of being 14 days fully vaccinated, but not more than 180 days since your last dose, you can focus your mind onto the testing and form filling required to visit. They’re not much better.
To visit Israel under the November reopening guidelines, you must…
- take a PCR test within 72 hours of departure and fill out a passenger form.
- take a PCR test on arrival and wait in your hotel until the result comes back.
- take a PCR test within 72 hours of your departure and fill out a departure form.
So yeah, 3 PCR tests and a few forms later and your trip is in full swing. It begs the fair question of whether Israel actually wants tourism back, in the high volumes it existed before?
Maybe Wait Until Israel Actually Wants Visitors?
For much of the world, border moves are currently focused around continuing efforts to make the pandemic, endemic, and to reboot travel and the business it brings with it.
This means creating simple and effective measures to stop the spread at borders, but not alienated or dissuade people from visiting. It’s hard to argue that Israel is currently taking this approach.
To balance needs, most countries are simply requiring secure vaccination proof with a passenger locator form to do the trick. Positivity rates across borders are much lower than those already in most countries and for the fully vaccinated, worst outcomes are statistically much less likely anyway.
As long as Israel keeps the rules as they’re currently written, travel to Israel will likely stay a function of need, like visiting family friends and relatives, and not one of desire. With plentiful options around the globe where rigorous protocols aren’t required, it’s hard to see people flocking.
Hoteliers in Tel Aviv seem to agree, according to the Times Of Israel. Israel is finally reopening, but it’s seriously complicated. Too complicated, for most.
People can visit in theory, but the goal posts are incredibly narrow and the burden, hassle and stress during the trip, with 3 tests and multiple forms, even for those who are fully vaccinated, isn’t likely to win any discretionary travel.