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:
- 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.
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.