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FYI: Recent Trip to Israel

I have just returned from a few weeks in Israel visiting family. Obviously regulations are in flux, but perhaps my sharing will help someone.
Israel has VERY strict guidelines that must be followed exactly. It is not always easy to discover those “ fine print” details and you should not rely on your airline to inform you. ( I flew United and their “ Travel Ready” section related to my trip had incomplete information.) Do research on your own. Here is one source I relied on: https://corona.health.gov.il/en/directives/air-travel-covid19-israel/
Here are some insights from my trip:

  1. Be persistent and be prepared to do a deep dive of research into requirements. It took me three tries to be allowed in. The first time I rescheduled after reading entry requirements knowing I would never be accepted. The second time I spent two weeks gathering documents/ apostilles/letters from my medical providers, etc. My application was rejected almost immediately. The third time I was approved. This required three Pfizer jabs, and letters from my physician and medical Travel Insurance that specifically stated I was covered for COVID while in Israel. I prepaid for the required PCR test at the Tel Aviv airport upon arrival. That was helpful because submitting all of my information ahead of time facilitated getting my Green Pass QR code for my phone. This was needed for all restaurants, movies etc. Without all of these pertinent documents I would not have been allowed to board my flight.
  2. Israel’s diligence is exemplary. Every store I entered reminded customers to wear a mask, and to wear it correctly. One of my grandchildren required 2 PCR tests in 24 hours in order to return to school following exposure to a classmate who had tested positive. Easy, free and efficient drive- through process. Results came very quickly. Everything was digital, handled through an app. (The US has a lot to learn here.)
  3. Prior to return I used the proctored home test that United was hawking. While it may have been adequate for United, it did not meet Israel’s requirements. Fortunately I spotted that small detail ahead of time, and did a walk- up PCR test at a “ state- approved hospital or testing center”. In my case it was at Augusta Victoria hospital in Jerusalem, took 10 minutes, cost 150 Shekels( about $50), and I had the verified results and letter in my email within 4 hours. I then uploaded those results to United. This took three tries before it worked, and they listed my travel approval as “ pending” until about 6 hours before my flight. Only then could I get a boarding pass on my app. Despite the digital boarding pass, Israel requires the paper ones issued by desk agents. Both inbound and outbound I was required to give them a paper boarding pass prior to getting on the plane.
  4. Mask compliance on both flights was excellent. Given that everyone on both flights had to be fully vaccinated ( in most cases that means three jabs) and had a negative PCR test, the mask rule seemed a bit superfluous. It did result in me feeling completely safe and comfortable.
  5. United info: Service has been really scaled back. Outbound I used miles to get an upgrade to Polaris. What a difference. No welcome drinks, no cocktail hour, no staged courses of food. You were allowed one alcoholic drink, and everything came at the same time. No desserts at all. Inbound home Premium Economy was equally minimal service. It was a marked change since my last ( Pre COVID) international flight. Given that both flights were full, it seems unlikely that United will restore previous levels of service. If customers will still fill the seats, why would they reinstate amenities that cut into their profits?

I hope this is helpful. I had a wonderful time, and it was powerfully poignant to see my family after almost two years. So definitely worth the time, stress, money and scrum to make it happen.

Posted by
1 posts

Thank you for posting this! We are traveling to Israel in March 2022. I will check out your link. We are crossing by car in/out of Jordan for a overnighter, then flying from Tel Avi to Cairo, then Cairo to USA upon return.
To clarify, you were not vaccinated during your 1st and 2nd attempts? What travel insurance did you use that covered COVID?
Thank you!
Dawn

Posted by
428 posts

Hi Dawn.
I was fully vaccinated AND boosted, so that was not the reason I had to change my flights three times. First, Israel shut down to any non- citizen visitors, then they were only open to people who had a first degree citizen relative.
( Mountains of documents were submitted and denied as my my son- in- law did not “ count” as first degree.) For a brief time they were only open to tour groups, then they were again shut down to everyone. Finally, they were open to travelers with three jabs ( submitted online and pre- approved by Israel), and PCR tests prior to boarding and and upon arrival at the airport. At that time (11/21) there was no land- based entry. They shut down to everyone again just before I came back to the US. They have recently reopened, but given how often they change the rules be vigilant about checking. Here is a good site for that:
https://corona.health.gov.il/en/abroad/

I purchased medical ( not travel) insurance from Trawick. At that time Israel required you prove you had medical insurance that would cover you for COVID. The letter from my physician was not accepted previously, so I found Trawick. They provide you with a cover letter that specifically states you are covered for COVID. They also insure you in the event that you are required to quarantine. ( At various times Israel has required that, as does the US if you test positive at the time of return.)
https://www.trawickinternational.com/

Assuming you are allowed in during March, it should be a wonderful time to be there. Best of luck to you!

Posted by
14773 posts

TM, thanks for the report. We've had a lot of ups and downs with entering and leaving the country.

Dawn, I do hope your tour does indeed come here in March. It's a great month to be here - weather is generally mild, no real cold temps but probably not warm enough for sandals in most places. We're having a lot of rain, so the countryside should still be very green and there may be wildflowers too (late Feb to early Mar is usually best). The site TM linked to is the best AFAIK. I expect your tour organizer will have all the up-to-date info and tell you exactly what you need to do.

The regulations change as often as the calendar changes. Right now they think the Omicron wave of infections will peak in about a week, with hospitalizations peaking 10-14 days later. Everything is open, with few restrictions except for mandatory mask-wearing in all indoor settings and kids are supposed to take at-home tests twice a week to attend school. Right now indoor dining/drinking is only for the fully vaxxed (3 shots) but there's outdoor seating for all. The Covid "green pass" law expires at the end of the month and it now sounds like it won't be renewed. On the other hand, because of the high infection rate for Omicron people aren't going out socially nearly as much.

Posted by
251 posts

Thanks for sharing your experience and perseverance. I have already canceled 2 family trips to visit Israel. I'd love to visit, but the country's requirements are just too restrictive at this time. The fact that American Airlines continues to postpone its non-stop service from DFW - TLV is also a disincentive to fly there anytime soon. My fingers are crossed for a late 2022 visit if restrictions decrease. Too much stress and worry right now just to get some good shakshuka and schwarmma if tested positive, lol.