The Jerusalem Post
Time will tell on new pandemic entry requirements
When a few days ago, the time came for me to apply for my Italian mother to get special permission to enter Israel as a first-degree relative of a citizen, I thought I was ready.
I had written extensively on the coronavirus’s medical implications, but also on every twist and turn of the regulations that in the past year and a half changed and unchanged our life.
I was aware that the procedure to receive permission for a vaccinated and/ or recovered first-degree relative lacked clear instructions and that different offices had different requirements and time lines.
However, after spending hours and days studying the subject, reading both the English and the Hebrew versions of all relevant pages in the government’s websites, visiting the Population and Immigration Authority branch where I intended to send the request and coming home with an A4 paper detailing the specific documents and procedures they required, reading dozens of first person accounts on social media, I thought I had it down.
It turned out, I was mistaken.
According to the paper I was given at the authority’s Har Homa branch in Jerusalem, a request was supposed to be sent to a certain email address not earlier than 14 days before the flight, carrying my Israeli ID, my mother’s passport, her vaccination certificate, health insurance covering COVID, a quarantine form (stating that my mother committed to respect the relevant regulations), proof of the relationship, plane tickets, and another non better-specified “application-form – Population and Immigration Authority.”
The document also stated “a reply will be given the day after the application is submitted.”
I felt lucky. Most the of the Population and Immigration Authority branches around the country do not offer an option to send the documents via email, but require people to go in person. Except they also do not offer the opportunity to make an appointment which results in people going there to stand in line at ungodly hours in the morning, often for several mornings, until they manage to get in.
Not to mention the consulates, where people would send requests from afar and just hope, often without ever being able to talk or get any form of acknowledgment by someone relevant.
In both cases, some people manage to get what they need. Others have to delay their trip. In the best case scenario, people still endure a lot of stress and uncertainty.
Yes, at Har Homa there were still parts that felt a little messy – I was only able to find the last application form required posted in a Facebook group – but I was confident. They had publicized the procedure, and I had read – again on social media – of several people celebrating their approval within a few hours after they sent it.
Last week, exactly two weeks before my mother’s flight, I sent the email. All documents were attached in one PDF, as suggested by people who had gone through it before me. I immediately received an automatic reply that the application had been received and was going to be processed.
I felt reassured.
On Sunday, I started to be nervous. On Monday, I sent everything again. On Wednesday a sense of panic began to emerge, but it was still under control. I would go there first thing in the morning and sort everything out.
Today I went and stood under the sun outside the branch. Two other people were there for the same purpose: a woman who had applied for her sister so she could see their parents in their 90s after two years, and a man trying to get his parents in for his son’s wedding.
The guard standing outside was kind to us. He understood that we were distressed and while he was managing other people visiting the branch for all sort of purposes, he tried to go and inquire on our behalf.
Twice he came back and told us that there was nothing that we could do but wait for the email with the approval. We insisted.
When everyone else was gone, he allowed us to enter, and ask for our IDs.
When he came back, he just told us that the branch has a backlog of some 3,500 applications, and just one person to process them. Nobody would meet with us, nobody would check our requests.
“You might still receive the approval in time. But why didn’t you send the application earlier, why did you buy the tickets before receiving the approval?” he said. I almost cried in frustration. There was nothing left but to leave. How would I tell my mom that she probably would not be able to come, I thought as I rode on the bus.
When I got home however, I decided to make one last attempt. On Wednesday night I had read, again on
Facebook, that a new procedure to apply online had been set up.
I followed the link to the Foreign Ministry’s website and I filled it on behalf of my mother, sending all the documents again, this time attaching them one by one. The system required a copy of the foreign citizen’s passport, their vaccination or recovery certificate, health insurance covering COVID, and “Additional documents relevant to the reason for the arrival request, as specified in the application,” without specifying any further detail. I included all the documents that I had prepared for my previous application.
The system did not specify any specific time-frame to receive an answer.
This time, I did not have any faith.
But again, I was wrong. Within half an hour, my mother received the approval, with the permission to enter Israel valid for a month. This time, my eyes were filled with tears of joy.
Did the permission arrive so fast because the system is new and not clogged yet? Or will this development effectively improve the life of all of us who have loved ones living abroad, for whom the pandemic has also become an insurmountable obstacle to family relations?
Time will tell.
In the meantime, grandparents and grandchildren, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews, unmarried partners – all non-first-degree relatives – are left in limbo, stuck outside Israel.
Not a great record, for a country that calls itself family oriented, as well as the home of all Jews. • it might hold a preseason game in Israel against Beitar Jerusalem. The match was set to take place in Jerusalem’s Teddy Stadium on August 4.
Teddy Stadium in Malha is located “near” the east Jerusalem neighborhoods of Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan, where a number of Arab families are facing eviction from their homes, a spokeswoman for an anti-Israel boycott movement said.
Malha is located at the southern tip of Jerusalem, while Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan are located in east Jerusalem.
The purported match was “politically motivated in an attempt to marginalize Palestinians’ rights and play over the blood and suffering of the Palestinian people,” the spokeswoman said.
Anti-Israel activists launched a hashtag in Arabic on Twitter titled “Boycott Barcelona” in an attempt to pressure the Spanish team to cancel the match against Beitar Jerusalem.
The Barcelona team is planning to hold a match in Israel “at a time when Palestinian athletes are being deprived by the Zionists of the right to participate in sports events around the world,” according to “Boycott Campaign – Palestine.”
Teddy Stadium was “established on the blood of the Palestinians,” the anti-Israel group said, adding that many of FC Barcelona’s fans are Arabs.
Several Palestinian activists
accused Beitar Jerusalem of racism and said the team’s fans are known for their chants against Arabs and “insults” to the Prophet Muhammad.
FC Barcelona president Joan Laport said his club has not publicly released any statements through its official channels confirming the holding of a friendly soccer match against Beitar Jerusalem over the summer, according to Wafa, the Palestinian Authority’s official news agency.
Palestinian Football Association president Jibril Rajoub received a letter from Laport about the match planned in Jerusalem on August 4 “in a stadium built on the ruins of the Palestinian village of al-Malha, whose residents were forcibly expelled and displaced in refugee camps,” Wafa reported.
“Any activity of normalization in sports with the Zionist enemy is a crime,” Rajoub, a former PA security commander who is secretary-general of PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s ruling Fatah faction, has said in the past.
According to Wafa, Laport wrote to Rajoub: “We have received the letter that you sent on behalf of the Palestinian Football Association in which you conveyed your concerns about FC Barcelona’s presumed activity of a friendly game in Jerusalem.”
FC Barcelona has not announced the team’s schedule for the current season through its official channels, Laport stressed, adding that FC Barcelona, “as a democratic sports institution committed to basic rights and principles, has always expressed through actions, as the club’s history confirms, its clear defense of the rights and freedoms of all peoples of the earth.”
Joshua Halickman contributed to this report. •