Did Israel Damage Ties With Diaspora Jews By Closing Doors During COVID?

While Israeli officials have made many successful decisions on health and economic issues during the COVID-19 crisis, they have repeatedly failed to take into account its impact on the connection of diaspora Jews to the country.

In an era when nearly all polls show that the Jewish connection to Israel is on the decline, especially among young Jews, the situation could lead to a catastrophic decline in support for the Jewish state.

On Sunday night, thousands of people tried to board planes to return to Israel after more than 18 months of being barred from the Jewish state, as Israel’s new travel rules went into effect on November 1. But when they arrived at the airports with all the requested documentation, they were unable to board their flights.

The required registration form had not yet been updated on the Ministry of Health website and the airlines had not been informed of the change in policy. Hours of tears and stress passed until Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz allegedly took action and had his ministry tell airlines that they could allow incoming passengers with vaccination papers to board their planes.

Still, some people never got to travel by plane.

Travelers at Ben-Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv, September 6, 2021 (credit: YONATAN SINDEL / FLASH90)

The situation highlights that most officials do not understand the complicated, time consuming and expensive preparations required for most foreigners to travel to Israel from the other side of the world. They do not recognize the longing and excitement that some of these tourists, or in many cases, family and friends of people living in Israel feel when they prepare for a “mission” in the country.

“There has been a total lack of attention to the human emotions and mental health of those who tried to come to Israel throughout the crown crisis,” said Yad L’Olim founder Dov Lipman, who has been helping relatives of first degree of new immigrants. obtain permission to come to Israel during the last months.

Stopping Diaspora Jews and Christian Zionists from entering Israel has also sent a message to these potential visitors that they are not necessary and that tourism is not really a part of the country’s national and historical identity, but a good thing to do. Israel can do well. without.

Israel logically did everything it could to protect its startup culture, to send parents back to work and children to school. But it waited until the end of a fourth wave of the virus to find a method to facilitate the entry of foreign nationals, and many believe the new rules further complicate the situation, at least for some.

For example, people who have recovered from COVID-19 and do not live in one of the countries that provides digital recovery certificates are prohibited from entering Israel. On the other hand, people with paper vaccination certificates can be admitted.

The Ministry of Health cited concerns about false positive PCR results and certificates of recovery as the reason for this decision. However, it is just as easy (if not easier) to fake a vaccine card from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a PCR test, making the decision seem illogical.

Additionally, Israelis are considered to be fully vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine or a Pfizer booster within seven days of receiving the second or third injection. But in an unexpected twist, just days before the new travel guidelines were implemented, the Health Ministry changed the waiting period between the vaccine and being considered fully protected to 14 days, just for tourists. This means that people who ran out to get a booster and bought a ticket to come to Israel a week later were now ineligible to enter.

    A WOMAN RECEIVES her third COVID vaccination at a Clalit Health Fund center in Jerusalem.  (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM / THE JERUSALEM POST) A WOMAN RECEIVES her third COVID vaccination at a Clalit Health Fund center in Jerusalem. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM / THE JERUSALEM POST)

Nowhere in the new regulations does it say that travel insurance is already required to enter the country, and there is no form requesting it. However, the Health Ministry told The Jerusalem Post that it is necessary and that they would have to add this information to the website because “they can be asked to present it at the airport.”

“Once the rules and procedures were in place due to health concerns, the process had to be clear and those decisions needed to be implemented,” Lipman said. “There has been colossal failure on both fronts, and this continues to this day.”

“The obstacles, obstacles, anxieties and stress that Jews have had to go through to get to Israel, according to the rules, have led many to feel that Israel does not welcome them to the Jewish state,” he said.

The situation, of course, did not start with the Bennett administration, but dates back to mid-March 2020 when former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu barred all foreigners from entering the country in the first place.

Israel took until April 2021 to begin granting entry permits to vaccinated first-degree relatives of people living in Israel. But even then, the entry process was complicated and convoluted, with many struggling to get permission to come.

This June, the government began allowing small groups of vaccinated tourists to enter Israel as part of a pilot program, which was supposed to be expanded in July to allow individual vaccinated tourists to enter the country. But letting individual travelers in was continually postponed, first until August 1, then indefinitely, until the latter scheme.

Furthermore, group trips were short-lived because as infection increased, the government labeled most of the world as “red” or “orange,” effectively banning inbound travel from most countries or requiring people to stay. They will isolate a minimum of seven days upon entering.

It took until mid-September for the small group pilot to start over. And when it did, while it was enjoyable for the tour guides, some said it felt like another blow to most diaspora Jews, who got the message that Israel would rather allow a group of tourists from China to enter the country than the Jewish grandmother of China. a lonely soldier.

Members of the Jewish diaspora and the Christian Zionist community are devastated differently but equally, they have said.

Lipman spoke of receiving messages from travelers, such as: “Apparently, Israel would prefer that I go on vacation to Canada and Mexico and not to my homeland.”

One person said that if she had known that Israel would have treated her this way during COVID, she would not have been so supportive until now.

Others said, “Why isn’t Israel thinking of me too?”

Rather than creating a safe haven, the government has made visiting the Jewish safe home nothing less than a burden.

Historically, when the world turned its back on the Jewish people, Israel opened its arms. The country could have taken in Jews from the communities most affected by COVID, places without good hospitals or enough vaccines. Instead, he prohibited those people and everyone else from coming here.

Although not related to COVID, the announcement earlier this week that the country is considering banning the use of apartments as vacation rentals in the center of the country through property rental services like Airbnb will send prices even higher. and make it more difficult for people. come to Israel after the coronavirus crisis.

    Diaspora Jews at Ben-Gurion Airport after making Aliyah to Israel.  (credit: THE JEWISH AGENCY) Diaspora Jews at Ben-Gurion Airport after making Aliyah to Israel. (credit: THE JEWISH AGENCY)

Tourists may eventually decide to travel elsewhere.

The coronavirus can cause serious illness. Israel is obliged first of all to protect its own citizens. And health officials have emphasized that the variants are more likely to come from abroad through the airport than they are developed within Israel.

This most recent Delta wave was started by families who traveled abroad and did not quarantine their unvaccinated children upon return. But these were Israeli travelers who could come and go almost as they pleased, while even vaccinated and recovered tourists who were willing to self-quarantine just to enter Israel were banned.

If the government had valued the olim whose families are abroad and cannot see their loved ones, if it cared for Israel’s Jewish and Christian supporters as it claims, then it might have found solutions.

Why was a leader never established to come up with a better strategy?

Perhaps this was because the Ministry of Tourism made up only 5.9% of the country’s GDP in 2019, and the COVID pandemic ultimately served as a boon to Israel’s high-tech sector, making the shekel stronger. never.

But tourism is not just about dollars and cents. It’s about connection and continuity. It is about exposing visitors to Israel’s vitality, vitality, holiness, and history so that in an era when anti-Semitism and anti-Israel sentiment are at an all-time high, the country has positive ambassadors.

Most of the people trapped at their gates Sunday night finally boarded their planes. But this will almost certainly not be the last fiasco.

At a certain point, there will probably be a breaking point.

Israel is supposed to be the homeland of all the Jewish people. Perhaps it is time for the government to roll out the welcome mat.


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