Israel Travel Tips

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.

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.

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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Birds in Israel

Israel lies between Asia and Africa and is not far from Europe. Every year, millions of migrating birds come from Europe to spend the winter in warmer, tropical or subtropical climate. And there are plenty of local birds. This makes Israel a paradise for bird watchers and bird photographers.

The following is a gallery of birds I photographed. Clicking on a photo lets you view a larger image.

I will be updating the gallery from time to time, so bookmark the page to revisit.

Enjoy!

Heiko

Tel Aviv Wildlife

Tel Aviv is known as a “wild city” with its jungle of bars, cafes, clubs and (beach) parties round the clock, at least when not under CoVID-19 lock-down. But this post is dedicated to the nature lovers who will find an abundance of animal wildlife right in the city.

One of the best places to explore the diversity of nature is the Yarkon park that stretches along the river with the same name. Starting at the mouth of the Yarkon river we see the black-headed gulls, whose heads turn white during the winter time. They usually visit Israel as migrating birds.

Black-headed gull
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Happy and Healthy New Year 2021

Happy New Year 2021

Happy New Year 2021 from Jerusalem, Israel

The year 2000 has been a crazy year. Suddenly, out of the blue, the CoVID-19 pandemic has wrought worldwide havoc. Travel restrictions and quarantine rules have made a visit to Israel almost impossible for non-residents. Let alone the health concern of travelers who expose themselves to crowds. “Social distancing” – the motto of the day – doesn’t go well with travel. Aren’t we visiting other countries to experience and learn more about the country and the people living there?

When asking my travelers about the most memorable experience during their stay in Israel, 8 or 9 out of 10 will mention an encounter with a local. Israel is truly blessed with holy places, remnants of ancient and modern history, beautiful vistas as well as memorial sites. But in the end its the people who fill the streets with life.

Now to the good news. Israel kicked off mass corona virus vaccination on December 20. So far more than 900,000 people have been vaccinated, about 1/10 of the entire population. It is planned that by end of January 2021, about one quarter of the entire population will be vaccinated. I myself got my first out of two shots today, the last day of 2020.

Fighting the corona virus

CoVID-19 vaccination in Tel Aviv, Israel

By April or May the vast majority of Israelis will be vaccinated. With that, it seems, travel to Israel will once again be possible. I’ve been waiting for that day to arrive and I am really looking forward to once again guide you travelers through Israel.

With the best wishes for a Happy, Prosperous, and Healthy New Year 2021 !

Yours

Heiko

Happy Birthday, Israel

Today Israel celebrates independence day. It’s the country’s 72nd birthday. When David Ben Gurion proclaimed the establishment of the State of Israel on May 14, 1948, he well knew the dangers and threats that lay ahead of the young nation. Then and today, Israel faces multiple challenges. But today, the major challenge on almost everybody’s mind is the corona virus, a challenge that we share with the entire world.

Israel independence day 2020

Israel celebrates 72 years independence

For many of us the COV-19 threat is manifold – physical (health), economic, and mental. Needless to say that as I’m writing this, I’m out of a job – not much work in tourism nowadays. But we have gone through crisis before. I myself can recount hyperinflation, several wars, terrorism, drought, economic depression, and more.

Going back to the early years of the country, the situation was no less difficult. War and the influx of around 900,000 homeless (Jewish) refugees from Arabic/Muslim states put a heavy burden on country and economy. Sometimes brave leaders had to make daring, perhaps unpopular decisions. Take for example the “Wiedergutmachung” or reparations agreement with Germany under David Ben Gurions’ leadership. The late Menahem Begin, then head of the opposition, would rage against David Ben Gurion. But in reality this money was much needed to put roofs above the heads of many new immigrants.

Twenty five years later it was Menahem Begin who made peace with Egypt. Whereas Begin was celebrated a hero at home, president Anwar el-Sadat was brutally murdered three years later.

What unites Menahem Begin and David Ben Gurion is that both saw government not as a popularity contest, but as a great responsibility towards the people. They weren’t afraid to make difficult and unpopular decisions when needed. And they didn’t care about the splendors of the world, living a simple live in every sense.

Today our leaders are presented with a unique opportunity to become immortal. Their wise decisions can save thousands, tens of thousands of lives and help the people to overcome the Corona crisis. Let’s hope they can live up to it.