COVID-19 sign in front of plane
COVID-19 sign in front of planeiStock

Israel’s relationship with Diaspora Jews has come under massive strain due to the Jewish state’s sweeping bans on air travel, the country’s Diaspora Minister warned.

Speaking with Israel Hayom in an interview published Wednesday morning, Minister Nachman Shai (Labor) urged the government to ease restrictions on air travel, which he said have brought Israeli-Diaspora relations to a “breaking point”.

“We’re approaching a breaking point in Israel-Diaspora relations,” Shai said. “We have the means to protect the health of Israel’s citizens, even without closing the country’s borders to entry and exit for the world’s Jews.”

“The time has come to take into account the extensive damage that is liable to be caused to our ties to Diaspora Jewry.”

Since the outbreak of the pandemic in early 2020, Israel has tightly restricted air travel into the country by non-citizens.

Aside from brief, limited pilot programs allowing some vaccinated tourists in organized tour groups to enter the country, and a bureaucratic waiver for entry bans to some travelers with close relatives who hold Israeli citizenship, few non-citizens have been able to gain entry to Israel over the past two years.

Birthright – Taglit Israel briefly relaunched its tour program for young Diaspora Jews, only to nix the relaunch several months later, cancelling 42 trips planned for the summer of 2021.

On Tuesday, Israel’s Coronavirus Cabinet voted to ease limits on travel abroad for Israeli citizens, dropping dozens of countries from the ‘red list’, while still banning travel to the United States.