Foreigners who are vaccinated or recovered COVID-19 patients and who have first-degree relatives in Israel will be able to enter the country to visit them, the Population and Immigration Authority announced on Tuesday.
Visitors are permitted to enter with their partners and children.
Israeli citizens or permanent residents and their families whose “center of life” is abroad may also come to Israel to visit first-degree relatives.
Foreigners seeking to enter Israel must submit a formal request to the Population and Immigration Authority and receive approval prior to their flight. They must also show proof of vaccination or recovery and proof of relation to those they are visiting.
Additionally, travelers must get tested within 72 hours of coming to Israel.
Before this change, foreigners were only permitted to travel into Israel under rare extenuating circumstances, such as to receive essential medical treatment, to attend a funeral of a first-degree relative, or for humanitarian reasons, among others.
The policy change comes amid increasing frustration from Israeli citizens who are immigrants, known as olim in Hebrew. On Tuesday, a group of olim protested at the Rose Garden opposite the Knesset, demanding better oversight of the government’s decision-making process regarding who it allows into the country.
Protesters were asked to dress in wedding attire or to push empty baby carriages, representing the various life cycle events that were being missed by family members stuck outside Israel.
Outgoing MK Michal Cotler-Wunsh spoke to the crowd, announcing that the policies were officially changing on Wednesday, but for some protestors, it wasn’t soon enough.
Ellie Hansen, 30 weeks pregnant with her fourth child and living in the Efrat settlement, was protesting for her mother, who was stuck in the US.
Hansen’s father immigrated to Israel a year and a half earlier, joining his sisters in Meitar, a community in the south. His wife, an optometrist, is still in the process of closing her practice in Atlanta.
After not seeing her family for the last year and a half, his vaccinated wife flew to Israel a few weeks ago with the proper paperwork, but wasn’t allowed into the country, and was turned around at Ben Gurion Airport.
“My dad was waiting to pick her up at the airport, they wouldn’t even let them see each other,” said Hansen.
Following Cotler-Wunsh’s announcement, Hansen’s father said he would go to his local interior ministry office on Wednesday to try and gain a permit for his wife.
The closest Israeli consulate for Rachel Glaser’s West Virginia-dwelling parents is an eight-hour drive away.
Her father, Noam Glaser, was born in Israel pre-1948, and has been planning on immigrating to the country with her mother, but to no avail.
“Their only grandkids are here, their only daughter, me, is here,” she said. “It’s crazy.”
The protest was organized by members of a Facebook group, Reunite Olim with Their Families. The group was created for members to share information and support each other as they attempt to find ways for relatives to visit for important life events.
Foreign citizens have been barred from entering Israel since the onset of the pandemic last year. Earlier this year Israelis’ entry was also highly restricted, as the government ordered the almost complete closure of Ben Gurion Airport, citing concerns of vaccine-resistant coronavirus variants entering the country.
The government later eased restrictions on air travel for citizens ahead of the March 23 elections.