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Toda raba*, Israel

*Thank you very much, Israel, for this much-awaited and happy announcement.

Sammy Yahia, Israel Ministry of Tourism director for the Philippines and India, gladly declared the other day that fully vaccinated travelers from the Philippines were now welcome to enter Israel. 

After kicking off the pilot reopening program in May this year, which initially allowed a select number of tour groups from different parts of the world to enter Israel, those who have completed their dosage of COVID-19 vaccines are now welcome, once again, to explore the country’s rich culture, history, religious sites and stunning landscapes.

Jerusalem’s Old City where the golden Dome of the Rock dominates the skyline.
Yahia has assured visitors that Israel has taken comprehensive steps to protect its people and guests, and prides itself on ensuring a COVID-safe and an unforgettable trip. With endless opportunities for outdoor activities, the country is ready for the expected deluge of visitors anytime soon.

Israel Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, along with the ministers of Tourism, Health, and Transportation, have come together to form a well-built plan, approved by their own COVID Cabinet, monitoring closely the ongoing domestic and international developments and whatever new COVID-19 variants there may be.

The complete guidelines on Israel’s entry requirements are available through this link: https://bit.ly/3nlwVRE. 

Let’s all get ready then to fly to the biblical Holy Land and visit Jerusalem, the Old City, the Temple Mount complex which is dominated by the golden Dome of the Rock, the historic Wailing Wall, and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, among many others.  

The very high salt content of the Dead Sea makes anybody float, and only backstroke swimming is allowed lest the water’s very high salt concentration hurts your eyes.
Or we can choose the country’s financial hub, Tel Aviv, known for its beautiful beaches, while we marvel at the city’s distinct architecture based on linear and geometrical forms.

The last time I visited Israel, I was with a group of friends and the main purpose of our visit was pilgrimage, so for one whole week, we immersed ourselves in nothing but religious activities and even traveled to neighboring Jordan to reenact the Baptism of Jesus in the River and to float like colorful buoys in the Dead Sea the whole day.  

It was a surreal, oftentimes emotional, experience to be right there in those sacred places where Jesus spent his life, from his birth in Bethlehem to his death in Golgotha. I remember emerging from that trip, feeling like a new, refreshed human being. All those prayers and sacred rituals we had every day for 10 full days certainly added a new, edifying dimension to my existence.

The Sea of Galilee, around which Jesus performed many miracles, is actually a freshwater lake. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)
We all know Israel as the ultimate pilgrimage destination, and people visit the country usually for its religious attractions. But, on my next visit, I would like to see another fascinating facet of the country.

I’m looking at other interesting attractions I have heard of. The art lovers among us, I’m sure, would be interested in the hidden alleyways featuring street art in Old Jaffa, the many art installations in the artistic village of Ein Hod, the well-manicured Haifa Gardens, and the character and charm of the cobblestone streets of Jerusalem’s Old Market. 

For those of us who are sports and wellness enthusiasts, I’m sure that taking the steep but short walk to the top of Masada would be interesting. 

Or we can hire a rowing boat and paddle up the Yarkon River. I heard about those puzzles in escape rooms in Zikhron Yaakov. That would be something new and mind-boggling for Filipino thrill-seekers. For diving enthusiasts, I heard that the Red Sea corals are very attractive and that one can swim with sharks in Hadera.

I also heard about that Betzavta promo where anybody can go online and be matched with a like-minded Israeli who will host him/her for a night of getting-to-know-more of Israel and its culture.

I can hardly wait for my schedule to clear up so I can do these new things in the land where it all began! This is why I am very happy with Israel’s recent announcement, making it easy for us to savor once again its “heavenly” attractions, although this time, for me, it will be more towards the realm of the mundane! Toda raba, Israel!

YOUR weekend CHUCKLE

Need an ark? I Noah guy.

For feedback, I’m at [email protected]

Topics: Israel , Tel Aviv , Naftali Bennett , Zikhron Yaakov , Sammy Yahia
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