COVID-19 coronavirus antigen test קורונה
COVID-19 coronavirus antigen test קורונה iStock

Dr. Michael Klein arrived in New York on Sunday from his home near Jerusalem. He’s a highly acclaimed dental-implant expert with a busy practice in Cedarhurst, NY. In normal times, he used to spend two weeks here in the Five Towns and then two weeks in Israel. When I was in his office on Monday, he said he was going back to Israel before Shabbos but was not sure when he would be able to come back to New York again.

Dr. Paul Brody is a good friend who lives with his family in Great Neck, NY. His daughter Dana, who made aliyah in 2020, is getting married in Jerusalem this Sunday to Ben Glass who, prior making to aliyah last year, lived in England. They met at a friend’s house in Baka over a Shabbos meal about half a year ago. Everything was going well and according to plan, but then this week travel to Israel from many major countries was brought to a halt, which threw many things into a tizzy for many people.

Dr. Klein was working on my teeth, so while it was difficult for me to speak, every time he paused I tried to sneak in another question about his plans and how he will deal with these new circumstances.

He has dual U.S. and Israeli citizenship, having made aliyah many years ago. While he was able to travel to New York, he is not certain what will await him when he returns to Israel on Thursday. “According to the regulations, I am going to have to quarantine for seven days,” he said. When the era of corona began, he once found himself being shuttled from Ben Gurion Airport to a corona hotel. The original plan was for him to spend two weeks there, but after being tested he was released, so to speak, after two days.

That won’t be the case when he goes back to Israel this weekend, but he wants to come back to the U.S. two weeks after New Year’s Day and has lectures scheduled in California and Arizona as well. “There are groups of professionals—doctors and others—who live in Israel but work here in the U.S., and not being able to travel freely can be disruptive,” Dr. Klein says. He is hopeful that over the next several weeks the harshness of the current regulations will be lightened, and he will be able to resume shuttling between Israel and the U.S.

Most of Dana and Ben’s wedding guests live in Israel, so that is a relief. As this is being written, everyone expected from the U.S. for the wedding has already arrived in Israel. However, Ben’s rabbi, who is from London, was told by British authorities that he will not be receiving permission to travel to Israel.

One of the problems about wanting or needing to be in Israel is the random nature of the various deadlines and regulations set for entry into the country. One day you are allowed to enter with relative, though certainly not routine, ease, and the next day your flight is canceled and you just cannot travel due to new corona regulations.

Dana and Ben

When I spoke to Paul Brody on Tuesday he was quarantining in Jerusalem. He and his wife, Drora, have been featured here numerous times over the years because of their support of Jewish organizations and their activism on behalf of Israel. They have many friends in Israel, including former and present members of Knesset. When we spoke the other day, Paul was dealing with the matter of the rabbi from London not being able to travel to Israel to perform the service.

Paul turned to a friend of many decades, Rabbi Yitzchok Dovid Grossman of Migdal HaEmek, who promptly agreed to be mesader Kiddushin. Rabbi Grossman is the founder of the Migdal Ohr educational institution and is also known as “The Disco Rabbi,” for frequenting Israel discotheques to work on bringing Jewish youths back to Jewish observance.

Michael Klein has been traveling between Cedarhurst and Jerusalem for more than a decade, and, according to my calculations, until two years ago he was traveling back and forth between the two countries 25 to 30 times a year. While my mouth was being held open by a newfangled dental device that made me feel like a construction site, Dr. Klein, in between doing whatever he was doing, explained to me the difference between the various levels of quarantine in Israel.

The most arduous scenario is if you arrive in Israel unvaccinated. That happens very infrequently these days, but when it was more common you risked being sent to what is referred to as a corona hotel for a full two weeks. That mostly applies to Israeli citizens who are allowed entry based on the fact that they are citizens. If you are not a citizen of Israel, you are not getting into the country at this point, unless there are extreme circumstances, and that requires Israel government approval.

There are two different types of corona hotels. First there is the hotel for those who test negative on their airport PCR test but are still required to quarantine. They were sent to hotels, had to stay confined to their rooms, and had food delivered to their rooms three times a day. Dr. Klein says the food was not too savory and the experience was dominated by ennui.

If you tested positive for the virus at Ben Gurion Airport you were sent to one of these hotels where everyone else had tested positive, too. That means you were not going to infect anyone else because everyone there was already infected. At those corona locations, it was described as party time. There were festive meals and big get-togethers in the lobby of the hotel—until you tested negative, usually 5 to 7 days later, and were allowed to go home.

From the experience of being in Israel this past July, I can attest to the fact that the situation looks much more imposing and severe from outside Israel than it does when you’re there. Once you are there, even today, life is routine. So you may need your green pass or proof of vaccine to get into a restaurant. Just like here in New York, some require it, some do not. Of course, that does not mean that there won’t be some alterations to that current reality.

Dov Lipman of Yad L’Olim told me on Tuesday that he is at the Knesset daily, meeting with MKs to lobby for changes in the newly implemented policies. He said he has been successful in making certain that some family members are able to enter Israel for weddings, bar and batmitzvahs, and births. Presently, he is fighting for people who live in Israel but work in “red” countries like the U.S. to be allowed to commute to and from work uninterruptedly. That last point would be vital for people like Dr. Michael Klein, who lives in Israel but works here in New York.

This is an ever-changing situation. Now that these hard policies are in place, we can look forward to having them lifted. Hopefully, that process will begin soon.

Larry Gordon is editor in chief of the Five Towns Jewish Times.

And - Mazeltov to the entire Brody family from Arutz Sheva!