Israel Travel Tips

Israel Reopens Border to Tourists

As Israel reopens its border on January 9, 2022, tourists and foreigners will once again be able to visit. Israel also removed its list of “red” countries (with high Covid-19 numbers), allowing travelers from all regions to enter.

Visitors planing to travel to Israel must adhere to the regulations of the Israeli Ministry of Health. In general, travelers are required to be fully vaccinated and produce a recognized vaccination certificate. See also the “Who can travel to Israel and how, as country reopens to visitors on Sunday” article in the Times of Israel.

For further information and helpful links to official websites, see my “Covid-19 in Israel” page.

For early visitors: Now you have the chance to visit the country’s many historic and holy sites without the usual queues.

Stay healthy!

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Jericho

The West Bank town of Jericho is part of the land controlled by the Palestinian Authority. Inside the West Bank, it is probably the biggest tourist and pilgrim attraction after Bethlehem. With good reason I believe, as the history of Jericho is one of a kind that you find nowhere else in the world. In the following article I describe the most important archaeological sites, in chronological order.

View of Jericho, West Bank, Israel
Quarantal – view of Jericho (click to enlarge)

Tell Es-Sultan (Tel Jericho)

Jericho is thought to be the oldest city in the world. How old? About 11,000 years old. It was before pottery had been invented. Archaeologists call that period PPNA, short for Pre-Pottery Neolithic A. A later period of Jericho falls into PPNB. To see this most ancient part of Jericho, we need to visit the Tell Es-Sultan archaeological park near the cable car station. A modest entry fee lets you climb the “tell” or settlement hill.

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Israel Closes Borders to Tourists (Again)

Following the outbreak of the new Omicron variant of COVID-19, the Israeli cabinet has voted to close again the borders to tourists. As of now, no foreign tourists are allowed into Israel, unless they have applied for and received a permit by the “exceptions committee”. The Times of Israel has published a summary of the new rules.

If you plan on visiting Israel, have a look at my COVID-19 in Israel page. There you’ll find links to the official government websites for new information and changes!

Almost throughout the pandemic, the Israeli government has placed severe travel restrictions on all non-residents and tourists wishing to enter Israel. From time to time these restrictions were lifted for fully vaccinated travelers. Let’s be hopeful that Israel will soon be able to reopen its borders.

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Israel Open for Tourists Starting November 1

If you ever wanted to visit Israel, now is the time. Starting November 1, 2021, Israel is opening its gates to tourists. This time both travelers in groups and individual travelers will be granted entry, provided they meet certain conditions.

Entrance to Israel is granted to fully vaccinated travelers only. Depending on how long ago the last vaccine was taken, a “booster” shot may be necessary. Israel accepts the European digital vaccination certificate as proof. If you do not hold such a digital certificate, you will have to apply for approval.

Nativity Church, Bethlehem
“Queue” to the grotto at the Nativity Church, Bethlehem

So far only very few tourists were able to visit the country. I have recently guided such a group and it was an incredible experience. Nearly everywhere we went we got the “red carpet treatment”. COVID-19 has emptied many holy sites and we had literally free access anywhere we wanted, without the usual queues.

This will change as more people travel to Israel. So now is perhaps a once-in-lifetime chance to experience Israel without the crowds.

For more information and helpful links, see my information page on COVID-19 in Israel.

Don’t forget to book your tour guide soon – the schedule is filling up.

See you soon!

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On the Road Again

After a really long COVID-19 induced “vacation”, I’m finally on the road again. This time I’m guiding a group of young people from Germany on their first Israel tour. Why I mention “first Israel tour”? Because Israel can be addictive.

Israel is gradually opening its borders to tourists. Entry to the country isn’t easy. First of all, you need to be part of an organized tour. You need to be fully vaccinated, and if your last vaccination has been more than 6 months before your scheduled return from Israel, you are required to take a “booster” or 3rd vaccination. You also need a travel insurance specifically covering COVID-19.

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Tourist Groups to Visit Israel Starting September 19

Organized tourist groups will be allowed to visit Israel starting on September 19, provided they fulfill a number of conditions. Among these conditions are:

  • Only tourists participating in a group tour will be accepted.
  • Only travelers from countries that are classified yellow or orange by the Israeli Ministry of Health are allowed. For an official list, see here.
  • Only fully vaccinated tourists having received a vaccine approved by Israel are allowed to enter.
  • Tourists must present proof of a second vaccination recognized by the Israeli Health Ministry. The proof must show that the second (or third) vaccination was received within the last six months before arrival to Israel.
  • Travelers must apply for a permit via their travel agent / tour operator and them with all necessary documentation.
  • A PCR test is required no more than 72 hours before boarding the flight.
  • A second PCR test is required upon arrival to Israel.
  • In addition, the traveler has to take a serological test at the airport in Israel.
  • The tourists are then brought to the hotel where they must stay until the results of the tests are received, which usually takes less than a day.

More information and helpful links can be found on my COVID-19 information page. Please contact your travel agent / tour operator for up-to-date information.

Disclaimer: I’m providing the information in the hope that it will be of help to you. However, with travel restrictions sometimes changing by the day, the information presented here may neither be accurate, nor complete, nor up-to-date.

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Travel Restrictions

Yesterday (August 23, 2021) saw another rise in COVID-19 infections. 9,831 people have tested positive for Corona, the highest number since the last wave of infections 9 months ago. The USA as well as the European Union have issued a travel warning for Israel. On the other hand, Israel has shut it’s borders to tourists, requiring entry permissions and quarantine for non-residents (and sometimes for residents too).

About 65% of Israels population is vaccinated. There are still many eligible adults who refuse the jab. Israel is trying to encourage the “refuseniks” through information and media campaigns. The country has also implemented more severe penalties for people breaking the COVID-19 regulations. Mask-wearing in closed public spaces and on public transport is mandatory.

Children of 12 and above are also requested to vaccinate. Children age 5 to 11 are eligible for the vaccine if they are considered at risk.

Several weeks ago Israel started to issue “booster shots”, first to people above the age of 60, now to younger people too. Health officials have determined that efficacy of the vaccinations drops over time. With Israel being one of the first countries to vaccinate its population, many people have received their first two doses 8-9 months ago. As of today, 1.575 million Israelis have already received their 3rd shot.

Despite the non-vaccinated Israelis making only 35% of the entire population (including small children and babies), they make up about 50% of all new COVID-19 cases in recent days. On a per 100,000 citizens basis, the non-vaccinated patients in critical condition far outnumber the vaccinated Corona patients. The Israeli Ministry of Health provides daily statistics on vaccinations, infections, hospitalizations, severe cases, and deaths and lots of statistical data, unfortunately in Hebrew.

You can find more information and links to government websites and travel guidelines on my “COVID-19 in Israel” page.

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1088 Passengers On One Airplane

Israel is known for many things, but usually not for (people) breaking world records. It’s a tiny country about the size of New Jersey, but not small enough to become the smallest country in the world. Yet Israel holds the world record in transporting 1088 passengers on a single airplane. This is the story of how the Mossad rescues Ethiopian Jews.

It all began in 1973, when then chief rabbi Ovadia Yosef published a Halacha (religious) ruling that Ethiopian Jews, calling themselves “Beta Israel”, were Jews in every sense. Two years later the Israeli government decided to apply the “law of return” to Ethiopian Jews, allowing them to immigrate and become Israeli citizens. In 1977 prime minister Menachem Begin ordered the head of the Mossad (the Israeli secret service – ssssshhh, don’t tell anyone!) to bring the Jews of Ethiopia.

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Traveling to Israel – COVID-19 Regulations

Just as Israel was on its way of full recovery from the pandemic, a sudden increase of COVID-19 cases on June 21 reminded us that it’s not entirely over, yet. The case numbers are still low – first an increase from 49 to 125 per day. Later last week it peaked at 230 verified cases. Before that, COVID-19 cases were single digit or in the low 10s. Health experts emphasized that they do not expect another major outbreak.

Antiquities and flee market in Tel Aviv
Antiquities and flee market in Tel Aviv – life is almost back to normal
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Covid-19 Updates

Note: This is a re-post from April 13, 2021.

Today the Israeli Minister of Tourism announced that starting May 23 Israel will allow a limited number of organized groups to enter the country. All tourists visiting Israel are required to take a PCR corona-virus test as well as an antibody test to prove they were vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19, within 72 hours of boarding the flight.

Sea of Galilee as seen from the Pilgerhaus Tabgha
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