travel

Israel reopens. It’s complicated.

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This is the moment that so many travelers — and Israel’s tourism industry — have been waiting for since the pandemic shut out much of foreign travel through Ben-Gurion International Airport in March 2020.

As of Sunday, Nov. 1, Israel reopened for individual travelers from all countries, without the need to obtain an entry permit — only a negative PCR test taken up to 72 hours before departure, and an online Inbound Passenger Statement.

Each entering tourist also must present a vaccination certificate less than six months old, certifying that the bearer was vaccinated with Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, J&J, Sinovac or Sinopharm; Sputnik V will be recognized starting on Nov. 15.

Unvaccinated, recovered travelers may not enter Israel from the United States, but can enter from the European Union with a digitized recovery certificate from the past six months. (No such document currently is available in the United States.)

Incoming travelers will no longer have to get a serological test to obtain an early release from quarantine. They will take a PCR test upon arrival at the airport and may leave quarantine as soon as the negative result is received — normally within 12 hours.

Not all the procedures were clearly spelled out as the week began, and travelers would be well served to check for updates before heading for the airport.

And don’t consider submitting fraudulent forms: Foreigners caught with forged documents will be refused entry to Israel for five years.

Until now, individual tourists could enter Israel only under certain conditions, with special permission. Group travel restrictions were relaxed in recent months.

To understand the impact of the tourism slowdown, in Sept. 2020, there were 15,100 tourist entries compared to 405,000 in Sept. 2019. From January to September 2021, there were 243,500 tourist entries into Israel, compared to 782,700 in the corresponding period in 2020. A record 4.55 million tourists arrived in Israel in 2019.

Foreigners who test positive for COVID-19 upon arrival or during their visit to Israel will be required to quarantine in a coronavirus hotel; those who refuse or who violate isolation also will be refused entry for five years.

For further details and updates, check the websites of the Ministry of Health and the Population and Immigration Authority.

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