The return of tourism to Israel took a significant step forward this week when a group of American theological students landed in Tel Aviv. The Israel Ministry of Tourism announced that the students are the first international tourist group to enter the country since the pandemic began over a year ago. When the flight arrived on Thursday, Minister of Tourism Orit Farkash-Hacohen welcomed the group and their professor, kicking off the official start of the country’s reopening pilot program.
“This is just the beginning of the long-awaited return of tourism to Israel,” said Eyal Carlin, Israel’s commissioner of tourism in North America. “We plan to continue rolling out next steps and advancements in our phased approach over the coming weeks. Israelis are ecstatic and are ready, with open arms, to welcome international visitors back to the country.”
Officials say over the next few days and weeks, 19 additional groups from around the world will arrive in Israel. The plan is to increase the number of groups allowed into the country and soon reopen to individual international tourists over the summer.
The group of students (seen above) who arrived this week are from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis. They flew in from Newark Airport on a United Flight with plans to visit Jerusalem, Masada, and the Negev. Their arrival comes after the pandemic paused international travel for months, and also amid a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas following a deadly conflict that brought life in much of Israel and Gaza to a standstill.
To protect against the spread of Covid-19, the Ministry of Tourism says future visitors must be fully vaccinated and have taken a PCR test that proved a negative result. They will be tested for antibodies upon arrival. For more information, visit Israel. travel.
By Greg Shillinglaw,