The government made a decision overnight Thursday to keep the skies closed for at least another two weeks. That means that with few exceptions, Israelis cannot enter or exit the country.
The government originally voted to close the skies through February 7; the new restrictions are in place until February 21.
However, a new “Exceptions Committee” will be able to approve the entry and exit of certain people for specific reasons.
Applications to the committee should be made online via a web form available on the Foreign, Health and Immigration ministries’ websites, as well as the Prime Minister’s Office’s. Forms need to be accompanied by supporting documentation.
The committee is composed of representatives from each of these ministries, as well as members of the Diaspora and Tourism ministries.
Israelis can leave the country for the following reasons, according to the Prime Minister’s Office and the Transportation Ministry.
1 – To receive essential medical treatment that cannot be delayed. In this case, the traveler can be accompanied by a support person.
2 – To attend a funeral of a first-degree relative.
3 – To assist a first-degree relative who is in distress and has no one local to help.
4 – To attend a legal proceeding of which they are a part of or are required by law to attend.
5 – To take part in a humanitarian mission.
6 –Traveling on a state-sponsored mission, such as for the purpose of foreign relations, as approved by the Foreign Ministry, Defense Ministry or Prime Minister’s Office.
7 – For an extended period of time, to take up permanent residence somewhere else.
8 – Professional athletes and their coaches can obtain permits to attend competitions outside the country.
9 – Non-Israeli citizens or non-permanent residents who are currently in Israel can get permission to leave.
There are also ways for Israelis who are presently outside Israel to get permission to enter. The following reasons for entering Israel could be approved for Israeli citizens.
The first six reasons for leaving mentioned above are also approved for those looking to enter the country. In addition, the following people can obtain permission:
7 – Women in their third trimester of pregnancy may enter Israel to give birth.
8 – Citizens who left Israel before the government voted to close the skies may now return.
In rare cases, non-Israeli citizens may also obtain permission to enter the country. The following people can receive a permit.
1 – People on a humanitarian mission.
2 – Professional athletes for the purpose of participating in a competition.
3 – Immigrants, if their aliyah cannot be postponed.
4 – People married to Israeli citizens or permanent residents, or who are the parents of Israeli citizens or permanent residents.
5 – People who are part of a state-sponsored mission, such as for the purpose of foreign relations, as approved by the Foreign Ministry, Defense Ministry or PMO.
Those who have already received exception certificates do not need to reapply; the certificates are still valid. In addition, people will be required to take a coronavirus test 72 hours before boarding an airplane to or from Israel.
The decision to close Israel’s skies came against the backdrop of steady but high rates of infection, driven largely by the British mutation that entered Israel through its airport. The mutation now accounts for between 70% to 80% of all infections in the country.
“We are closing the skies hermetically, except for really rare exceptions, to prevent the entry of virus mutations, and also to ensure that we progress quickly with our vaccination campaign,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the end of last month when the decision was made.
The Health Ministry has been pushing the government to keep the skies closed for at least several more weeks, until a system is in place to maintain testing, isolation and genetic sequencing that could stop the spread of mutations before it starts.
Some studies have shown that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are less effective against at least the South African mutation. It is unclear if these vaccines will be as effective against all future mutations.
The country hopes to complete vaccinating the majority of its oldest and most at-risk people before fully reopening its skies.