The world we are living in today is ever changing.
We are living through historic times as we learn to negotiate a new normal with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Suddenly we are finding new ways to work, new ways to communicate, and new ways to stay connected with one another. Churches are finding themselves online. Pastors are ministering to their flock through Zoom calls and phone calls. Instead of sitting next to someone, we are sitting in our homes and living out our faith in new ways, all while drawing closer together.
We are slowing down, and we are finding deeper meaning and value in our relationships. We are finding inspiration in our family, friends, communities, and the places we have been. We are inspired by the experiences we have lived.
Israel has always been a place of inspiration, a place of connection to our faith. In Israel you can walk in the footsteps of your faith and find the Biblical connections to the place Jesus lived, taught, and ministered. During this time of COVID-19, we can find the inspiration Israel offers through Israel’s new social media campaign #InspiredByIsrael. While we can’t walk in the footsteps of the Bible, we can remember those moments of connection and share them with others. Encouraging individuals from all faith walks to come together and bridge differences and share their moments of inspiration through this new campaign.
As travel has changed, we are finding ourselves traveling in new ways, traveling from the safety of our homes to places around the world through virtual tours. Stepping into museums, national parks, cities, and biblical sites as we dream of future travel. It is healthy even now that we begin to plan for the future, and dream of the places we want to go.
As the world begins to show early signs of the post-pandemic, opening the economy and opening travel, Israel is in the early phases of opening for travelers. Late last month, the Land of Creation began opening hotels, restaurants, small- and medium-sized businesses, national parks, and attractions for Israeli tourists. The Israel Ministry of Tourism (IMOT) worked closely with the Ministry of Health on a set of directives introducing a new “Covid-19 Safety Certificate” for the industry. Hotels have increased their health measures, doing routine check-ups to ensure the health of every guest and once again visitors walked the ancient ruins of Caesarea and hiked Mount Carmel. They traversed the ancient streets of Jaffa and visited the Galilee.
The next phase of the plan included re-opening museums and allowing for gatherings of up to 50 people in open spaces beginning May 10, and will increase the size of gatherings to up to 100 beginning on May 31. These are just the first steps in the overall plan to once again welcome international travelers back to the Holy Land.
As part of the new regulations and safety measures, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority announced new regulations and safety measures to allow for social distancing. These regulations include extended operational hours and limiting the number of people at any given time. They have also added special times for seniors and at-risk individuals. Visits to the newly reopened sites will be possible only by reservation and pre-payment through a special system on the authority’s website set up for this purpose, launched on May 5.
In addition to making special arrangements for reservations and visits, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority will emphasize the following Health Ministry directives:
- Wearing masks in the required areas
- Maintaining personal hygiene – washing hands frequently and installing hand disinfectant equipment.
- Maintaining required physical distance and preventing overcrowding
- Greater frequency of bathroom cleaning by site personnel
- Installing partitions in reception areas
- Distributing colored ID bracelets to visitors
- Temperature checks at site entrance
Among the sites opened:
- National parks: Ma’ayan Harod, Caesarea, Yarkon-Tel Afek, Yarkon Sources, Apollonia, Bet Guvrin, Herodium, Castel, En Gedi Antiquities, Masada (including the sound and light show), and HaBesor Park.
- Nature reserves: Banias, Snir Stream, Ayun Stream, Yehudiya, En Afek, the Hula, Taninim Strram, Enot Tsukim, En Gedi, and Matsok HaTsinim.
As domestic travel resumes, IMOT is building the foundations to welcome international travelers as well. Deep Knowledge Group has named Israel the #1 country in their COVID-19 safety ranking, making it an ideal destination to visit once travel resumes.
While they cannot predict when Israel will open its borders to international travelers, IMOT states with confidence that it will be ready to welcome them.
By Jill Daly
Director, Midwest Region
Israel Ministry of Tourism