Christian travelers: Everything you need to know to visit Israel

Opinion: Christine Darg takes you step by step through the entry process.

Restarting tourism: Israel welcomes first foreign group since March 2020 (photo credit: MICHAEL DIMENSTEIN)
Restarting tourism: Israel welcomes first foreign group since March 2020
(photo credit: MICHAEL DIMENSTEIN)

What a joy finally to visit Israel again after lockdowns and virus prohibitions against tourism. 

But jumping through all the hoops to get here has not been easy. Israeli websites concerning travel and tourism have been maddeningly confusing and often contradictory. Oh, for months, how I agonized over the official government online entry form and was repeatedly turned down on some point concerning vaccines or natural immunity or travel restrictions against various countries.

Having been locked out of Israel for two long years, many of us have experienced and understood vicariously the age-old Jewish desire to see and experience the land of the Bible.

Some of my overseas friends still have not heard that Israel is open again to tourism and that the jab is no longer required to enter.

Author Christine Darg (Credit: Courtesy of Christine Darg)Author Christine Darg (Credit: Courtesy of Christine Darg)

Christians who love Israel always enjoy hearing the familiar slogan, “Welcome home!” It’s like music to our ears. 

For the benefit of potential tourists, I’ll share the gauntlet of steps you’re going to encounter:

> Buy travel insurance to cover COVID in case you contract it while here to cover costs of your isolation in a hotel. Print out proof of travel insurance to show to the airline check-in desk.

> Pre-boarding 72 hours before flying, you have to pay for and take a PCR test. You must show your negative test certificate at the airline check-in desk.

> Forty-eight hours before departure, fill out the Israeli health website permission form at this link.

> Click "other" under vax categories. The link will ask details of your flight, if you have insurance and where you intend to stay. You will receive an email granting entrance to Israel. Download and print out this entrance approval form to present at your airline check-in desk.

> The government permission form will also give you a link to pay in advance for your mandatory PCR test upon arrival at Ben Gurion airport. This will save you the time of having to stand in line to pay for the test at the airport.

> After landing, as you walk toward immigration, scan your passport in one of the biometric machines that will automatically issue you an arrival visa. This small slip of paper will admit you to passport control.

> After passport control and luggage claim, follow signs to the COVID testing hall and personnel will swab your mouth and nose. Test results will be emailed to you within 24 hours. You are expected to quarantine until receiving a negative result.  We took our test around 5 p.m. and our negative results came through by 11 p.m.

> As you exit the airport, you could buy a train ticket, or take a shared taxi (called a sherut in Hebrew). Once outside, veer to the left and find the official taxi rank. Taxi fares to Jerusalem should be no more than 400 shekels. Do not ask for the meter. Instead, set the price before you start the journey. The driver should have a chart with the prices.

> Bear in mind that the situation changes from day to day. 

The window to Israel is open again—but for how long?

Christians around the world should hold the Minister of Tourism accountable for his promise: “I am proud to announce that after conversations with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, we agreed that there is no possibility of closing the skies to tourists."

CELEBRANTS HOLD Israeli flags and dance during the March of Flags at the Damascus Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem in June. (Credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)CELEBRANTS HOLD Israeli flags and dance during the March of Flags at the Damascus Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem in June. (Credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)

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Psalm 126, A Psalm of Ascent:

When the LORD restored the captives of Zion, we were like dreamers.  Then our mouths were filled with laughter,our tongues with shouts of joy.  Then it was said among the nations, “The LORD has done great things for them.”The LORD has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.  Restore our captives, O LORD, like streams in the Negev.  Those who sow in tears will reap with shouts of joy.  He who goes out weeping, bearing a trail of seed,will surely return with shouts of joy, carrying sheaves of grain.

Christine Darg is the co-founder of the Jerusalem Channel.