Israel’s government on Sunday pleaded with citizens to stop booking flights abroad for the summer vacation.
“It’s not the time to fly abroad,” said Health Ministry Director-General Nachman Ash, citing rising infection rates both in Israel and the countries to which most Israelis are flying.
This week Israel will add Greece, a favorite vacation destination with most Israelis, to its “high-risk” list, meaning anyone returning from there will be required to enter quarantine, whether or not they are vaccinated.
Most European countries still aren’t on that high-risk list, meaning vaccinated Israelis can visit and then return without requiring quarantine, provided they test negative for COVID-19 upon arrival at Ben Gurion Airport. This has led to something of an exodus of Israeli vacationers in July and August. A local source who was preparing to travel to Europe this week confirmed to Israel Today that pre-flight testing stations are swamped with Israelis who have already purchased tickets abroad.
Israelis love to travel almost as much as they love to defy their government, so this is no surprise. But the real problem is that the cost of vacationing in Israel has become so exorbitant that hardly anyone can afford to do it. Today it’s far cheaper to fly to Europe or Dubai and book a room in a luxury hotel than it is to drive to Eilat and stay for a week in one of its Red Sea resorts.
At the same time, the hard-hit local tourism industry is decrying the fact that Israelis are permitted to travel to and return from foreign countries, but tourists from those same countries still can’t enter Israel.
The government still isn’t ready to ban air travel out of the country, but it could come to that if daily infection rates continue to rise. Meanwhile, as part of its efforts to curb the spread of the so-called “Delta” variant of the coronavirus, the government has authorized police to use technological means to track and punish Israelis who violate quarantine upon returning to the country.