COVID: Soldiers’ parents, brides/grooms’ grandparents eligible to enter Israel

Parents of expectant mothers about to give birth also set to be added to the list of foreign nationals who can receive special permission to enter the country despite Omicron restrictions.

Travelers arriving at Ben-Gurion Airport last Sunday, the day before the government’s latest travel ban went into effect. (photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/FLASH90)
Travelers arriving at Ben-Gurion Airport last Sunday, the day before the government’s latest travel ban went into effect.
(photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/FLASH90)

Foreign nationals who are parents of lone soldiers and lone national service volunteers, or grandparents of a bride or a groom, are now eligible to receive a special permission to enter Israel.

In addition, parents of expectant mothers who are about to give births are also set to be included in the list of foreign nationals who can be allowed in the country despite Omicron restrictions, a spokesperson for the Interior Ministry confirmed to The Jerusalem Post on Monday, adding that the ministry just needed to wait for the approval of the Health Ministry.

After South African scientists announced that a significant rise in morbidity in the nation was suspected to have been caused by a highly mutated variant on November 25, the government quickly passed a set of restrictions, which include the complete closure of the borders to foreign nationals.

As happened in the past, these measures left many foreign family members of Israeli citizens unable to visit their loved ones, even for important life-cycle events.

Special permission to enter Israel despite the travel ban can be granted by either the Interior Ministry or Foreign Ministry.

 TRAVELERS ARRIVING at Ben-Gurion Airport head toward the COVID testing area. (credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/FLASH90) TRAVELERS ARRIVING at Ben-Gurion Airport head toward the COVID testing area. (credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/FLASH90)

Before Israel reopened its borders on November 1, all vaccinated or recovered first-degree relatives were eligible for such permission. As the Omicron variant hit at the end of the month the only exception left was for parents of individuals getting married.

In the following days, the Interior Ministry’s Population and Immigration Authority – which is responsible for setting the rules in consultation with the Health Ministry – expanded the criteria to apply for permission to enter. It has included all first-degree relatives of a couple ahead of their weddings, and the parents of a bar/bat mitzvah boy or girl, but only until Monday, December 6.

In the latest addition, the authority has also included the parents of lone soldiers and national service volunteers and parents of children who are about to get drafted in the army, as well as the grandparents of a bride or a groom up to a week before their wedding.

As of Monday night, the details only appeared on the Hebrew version of the government’s website and were featured in a different section than the other exceptions for family members.

All these individuals cannot automatically enter Israel but need to apply through the Foreign or the Interior ministries to receive authorization.

"We at Yad L’Olim have been advocating for these allowances since the ban was announced and we are thrilled that the ministers have finally heard the voices of olim and lone soldiers on this issue," said the Yad L’Olim NGO founder Dov Lipman, a former Knesset member.

Established this year, Yad L’Olim aims to help new immigrants navigate their new life in Israel, including the country’s notorious bureaucracy.

In the past few months, the NGO has been focusing on supporting immigrants and their family members abroad to ensure they could see each other in spite of the pandemic – support ranging from lobbying government officials to take their needs into consideration in designing the rules, to assisting individuals in petitioning offices and filling out forms.

Last week, the organization ran a social media campaign to include births in the criteria to obtain permission to enter the country, featuring dozens of pregnant women.

The issue was raised in a special Knesset Law and Constitution Committee hearing. Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked also mentioned it during the last government cabinet on Sunday and on Monday she made the decision to change the rule.

“We as Olim do have a voice,” said Lipman. “We raised it via appearances at Knesset committees and via the video of the expecting women which Yad L’Olim produced and Minister Ayelet Shaked heard our cries. I want to thank Minister Shaked on behalf of thousands of Olim for this just and right decision.”