Tens of thousands take advantage of flights to flee Israel’s closure

Destinations are largely limited to Greece and Bulgaria and involve testing and other measures; nevertheless, Israelis are flocking to vacation abroad to escape shutdown

Israelis prepare to check in for their flights at Ben Gurion Airport, September 19, 2020 (Channel 12 screenshot)
Israelis prepare to check in for their flights at Ben Gurion Airport, September 19, 2020 (Channel 12 screenshot)

Tens of thousands of Israelis are taking advantage of the opportunity to flee Israel’s new national lockdown and to enjoy a more relaxed holiday season abroad.

Despite the national closure, which began Friday and is expected to last at least three weeks in its most stringent form, the government decided earlier this week that any previously scheduled flights for the coming weeks will take place as planned.

According to a Channel 12 report Saturday, some 15,000 flew out in recent days, with 7,000 more expected to travel over the course of the Friday-Sunday Rosh Hashanah holiday, and another 40,000 set to depart over the next two weeks.

Those may not be impressive numbers in normal times, but are noteworthy after longs months in which almost all travel abroad was halted.

Vacationers’ choices are still highly limited: With the country having one of the highest daily infection rates per capita in the world, there are only two nations where Israelis can currently travel without being forced into quarantine upon arrival or return: Greece and Bulgaria.

And the pandemic cannot truly be escaped, with mask-wearing and restrictions on everyday life now being a worldwide phenomenon. Still, travelers can enjoy some beach-side relaxation and other leisure activities that have now been banned in Israel for the next month or so.

El Al planes at Ben Gurion International Airport, April 12, 2020. (Flash90)

Meanwhile, the halt on all new flight scheduling has caused existing ticket prices to jump considerably.

Those flying out are required to provide negative virus test results, in accordance with the demands of their destination country.

With new infections running at over 5,000 a day, Israel entered its second national lockdown on Friday in an effort to contain the resurgent outbreak.

The lockdown, bitterly opposed by many sectors of the workforce, and castigated by the opposition as proof of government failure, took effect at 2 p.m. on Friday, hours before the start of Rosh Hashanah.

It will last at least three weeks, dependent on situational assessments, and will be followed by a so-called “tightened restraint” period, that will also last several weeks but will see some easing of restrictions.

The eventual goal is to return to the system of setting restrictions locally according to infection rates — once the pandemic is brought under control.

read more:
Never miss breaking news on Israel
Get notifications to stay updated
You're subscribed