Photo Credit: Flash 90
Medical technicians test passengers for COVID-19 at the Ben Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv on March 8, 2021.

It’s not exactly the return to open borders that Israelis and their families abroad imagined when Ben Gurion International Airport reopened its doors weeks ago.

The “Welcome Mat” won’t be out for visits to Israel by individual non-residents until at least September 1, and that date is not yet firm either.

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But there is a way to get in, at least if you are a first-degree relative of an Israeli citizen living in Israel, according to the statement of policy found on the website of the Foreign Ministry.

All the relevant documents must be uploaded to the designated page on the website, together with the filled-out “Application for an entry permit to Israel during the COVID-19 pandemic for passengers traveling with a foreign passport.”

One meets “purpose of entry” criteria if visiting a first-degree relative with Israeli citizenship, requesting entry to undergo an urgent, life-saving medical procedure – or escorting such a patient, or traveling to attend the funeral of a first-degree relative in Israel.

Failing those criteria, one can always give it a shot by selecting “other” in the field for “purpose of traveling”.

There is also a Hebrew form that can (or is that must, it is unclear) be filled out by the citizen in Israel requesting permission for the individual abroad.

Boarding the flight with a partner, husband or wife, or children? Each person must still submit their own application for the trip.

Up to this point, one could apply through a local Israeli consulate or, in Israel, through a local branch of the Interior Ministry. The Bennett-Lapid government, however, has changed that policy: requests are now accepted solely through the website.

Previously one was required to present proof of first-degree relationship by submitted a copy of the Israeli relative’s teudat zehut (identity card) as well as the original birth and/or marriage certificate (yes, they certainly could and did sometimes insist on both) and similar documents (death certificate, etc.).

Now, one is required to upload a copy of a passport plus COVID-19 vaccination certificate or similar document proving recovery status, as well as a copy of health insurance documentation proving coverage for COVID-19, and “additional documents relevant to the reason for the arrival request, as specified in the application.”

It’s anyone’s guess precisely which kind of document will satisfy that latter requirement. In the past, some travelers were repeatedly asked to submit another document, and then another and even then, sometimes the request was rejected for unknown reasons.

And let’s not forget the necessary negative result on a PCR test taken within 48 hours of boarding, in addition to all that other paperwork. One must also have documentation of a negative PCR result prior to boarding a flight to leave the Jewish State as well.

A word to the wise: A report published by The Jerusalem Post on Thursday said it is advisable to submit the request for entry at least four weeks prior to the desired travel date.

There is, however, good news: The approval of entry was only good for two weeks up to this point; but now, authorization is now good for 30 days, according to the report.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.
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