Grandparents from red countries allowed into Israel for family events

New exceptions to travel from nations under a travel ban are on the way as the “exception committee” is flooded by requests.

Passengers at the Departure hall at the Ben Gurion Airport, near Tel Aviv on December 14, 2020.  (photo credit: YOSSI ALONI/FLASH90)
Passengers at the Departure hall at the Ben Gurion Airport, near Tel Aviv on December 14, 2020.
(photo credit: YOSSI ALONI/FLASH90)

Some foreign family members of Israeli citizens or permanent residents will be able to receive permission to enter Israel for life-cycle events, a Population and Immigration Authority official told the Knesset Law and Constitution Committee on Tuesday. They will be allowed entry even if they come from a country under a travel ban, the official said.

Meanwhile, 10 more countries, including the US and Canada, were put on the list of countries under a travel ban.

Amnon Shmueli, director of the Population and Immigration Authority’s Ben-Gurion Airport Unit, which sets criteria and grants special approvals to foreigners to travel to Israel, as well as to Israelis to fly to a “red” country, confirmed that new rules regarding weddings, bar and bat mitzvahs and births were approved during a meeting on Monday.

The exact criteria were set to be published on the Authority’s website later on Tuesday, an Authority representative told The Jerusalem Post. At print time, the website had not been updated.

The list was expected to include foreign parents of Israeli couples giving birth, grandparents of bar and bat mitzvah boys and girls and immediate family of a bride or a groom (parents, grandparents and siblings).

 Pregnant woman (illustrative) (credit: INGIMAGE) Pregnant woman (illustrative) (credit: INGIMAGE)

“We are very happy that the authorities heard the outcry from new immigrants,” Yad L’Olim founder Dov Lipman said. The NGO was established earlier this year to help new immigrants navigate their life in Israel.

Over the past few months, Yad L’Olim has been focusing on supporting Israeli citizens and their family members abroad to ensure they could see each other in spite of the pandemic, including lobbying the relevant authorities and helping prepare the necessary documents.

Over the past few weeks, Lipman has been working closely with the Knesset Constitution Committee and its chairman, Gilad Kariv, on a number of issues. These include creating a system that allows family members of Israelis to visit them at least for emergencies and other specific events and to push for more transparency in the activity of the Population and Immigration Authority.

There are only two teams of five people each working on examining all the applications that are addressed to the Authority, Shmueli told the Knesset committee.

The applications include requests from foreigners who need to enter the country from all over the world, as well as those of Israeli citizens who wish to travel to a red country, which they are prevented from doing. Israel’s borders have been completely closed to noncitizens since the end of November as a measure against the Omicron variant,

Over the previous 24 hours, the committee received more than 4,500 requests, Shmueli said, adding that Israelis should receive a response within 24 hours, while foreigners get their answers within five working days.

Beginning Wednesday, the list of red countries will include the United States, Italy, Belgium, Germany, Hungary, Morocco, Portugal, Canada, Switzerland, Turkey, the UK, Denmark, the United Arab Emirates, Ireland, Norway, Spain, Finland, France, Sweden, South Africa and several dozen other African nations.

“Our next priority is definitely finding a solution for Israelis who commute, people who made aliyah but whose primary employment is overseas,” Lipman said. “The rules right now do not allow them to travel if they work in a red country.”

The issue was discussed during Tuesday’s Knesset committee meeting. Several MKs objected to the current criteria decided on by the Population and Immigration Authority. Those criteria include only allowing Israelis to leave on the basis that their center of life is abroad, if they commit not to return to the country for 90 days.

The committee will hold another session on Sunday devoted to the issue of exceptions to traveling to and from Israel.

“The biggest thing we want to discuss is how the process works,” Lipman said. “I have been pressing the authorities about the fact that the current system is not working, that people are not getting answers, and there is chaos, and today we discovered that there are only 10 people working on thousands of requests. This is not doable.”