The Israeli Ministry of Tourism estimates that approximately 30,000 tourists will arrive in Israel this week for the April holidays of Passover, Easter and Ramadan.
While these numbers are still far lower than the pre-pandemic era, the tourism industry is optimistic about the gradual increase after nearly two years of COVID restrictions.
Kobby Barda, deputy general director at Israel’s Ministry of Tourism, told ALL ISRAEL NEWS that he views this week as a harbinger of good news for the industry.
“We've seen nice numbers recently and we believe that the trend will only increase in the following months,” Barda said.
“As we approach the Jewish holiday of Passover that celebrates the liberation of our people, we in the tourism industry are also approaching the liberation from COVID-19. The industry is now working in full power to welcome all tourists who wish to come here,” he added.
The recovery is reflected in the numbers. Just last month, after Israel fully re-opened its skies and allowed entry for foreign tourists, some 167,300 tourists poured in, as opposed to only 80,700 in March 2020, when the country shut its borders early in the month.
The gradual increase is evident at religious and cultural sites around the country. Around 500 Christian worshippers passed through the rotunda of Jerusalem's Church of the Holy Sepulchre and attended Palm Sunday mass.
However, the church – where Jesus is believed to have been crucified and resurrected – was only at about 20% capacity compared to the usual high season for pilgrims during the Holy Week.
Alvina Alston from New York is planning to travel to Israel this week to visit the holy sites for the first time in her life.
“I always wanted to go on this trip but my plans kept changing in light of pandemic restrictions. Now that Israel has finally re-opened for tourists, I immediately booked the flight,” Alston said.
“I was a bit deterred to go when I first saw the news about the latest wave of terror in the country and the attack in Tel Aviv... I asked an Israeli friend if she thinks I should go regardless,” Alston said.
“My friend told me something that now could sound a bit chilling – she said, bad things happen in many places and Tel Aviv is probably even safer than the New York City subway. Well, this week, there was a shooting in the subway, and I am convinced my friend was right,” she said.
Under Israel’s Ministry of Health rules, foreign tourists are still required to arrive with a negative PCR test and take another one upon arrival at Ben-Gurion Airport. Tourists are asked to isolate until they receive their results, whether or not they are vaccinated.
Tal Heinrich is a senior correspondent for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS. She is currently based in New York City. Tal also provides reports and analysis for Israeli Hebrew media Channel 14 News.