In a major reversal of a long-standing policy that lasted more than a year, Israel will begin to allow unvaccinated tourists into Israel with a negative PCR test before and after landing in the Holy Land.
The new policy goes into effect on March 1 as part of Israel's continued relaxation of its COVID restrictions.
This morning, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said “it is time to gradually open what we were the first in the world to close."
Many of our contacts in the incoming tourism industry heard the news from the media before receiving official word from the Tourism Ministry.
David Katz, deputy general manager of Sar-El Tours, said he wanted clarification on the definition of "unvaccinated," whether that meant no shots at all, or vaccinated but not boosted.
But otherwise, he added, he was "optimistically cautious."
The Prime Minister's Office released a statement this evening.
"Tourists of all ages will be permitted to enter Israel, vaccinated and unvaccinated alike, subject to undergoing two PCR tests (prior to departure and after landing in Israel)," the statement said.
Some in the tourism industry were still skeptical – the plans and policies have changed countless times in the last year.
Others were rejoicing.
"We are still in a hyper high, I can't believe it," Moshe Gabay, of Keshet Journeys, told ALL ISRAEL NEWS.
Michal Gal-Oz, of Yaffa Tours, said she believes the report to be true, but stressed that now is the time for the Incoming Tourism Association to fight for compensation that has been cut off since July and work to create a safety net in case the industry is shut down again.
If the new policy goes into effect next month, it means good news for many in the Evangelical community who have been waiting to travel to the Holy Land, but without the vaccine requirement.
"It's pretty amazing. It's more than what (industry leaders) asked for," said Uri Steinberg, who said he heard of the possibility earlier in the day – but doubted at the time that it would pass.
Nicole Jansezian is the news editor for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS and senior correspondent for ALL ISRAEL NEWS