Israel decided early in February to close Ben Gurion International Airport and has recently extended the closure until at least February 21. The decision was primarily due to the entry of the British mutation of the virus through the airport, which is now causing 70–80 percent of all new infections. The closure caused a lot of stress and worry for Israelis stranded abroad. Now, there is an Exemptions Committee to approve entry and exit permits for very specific reasons. IsrAir and El Al are conducting “rescue flights” to gather stranded Israelis or non-residents who want to travel home. Rescue flights are primarily from New York City; Frankfurt, Germany; and Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Examples of approved exemptions include the need to attend the funeral for a first degree relative, to receive essential medical treatment, to attend legal proceedings, to make aliyah to Israel, and for Israeli women in their third trimester to give birth in Israel. Israel wants to make further progress in vaccinating its population—mainly older people and those who are high-risk—before re-opening the airport. Any passenger who wishes to fly must have a negative COVID-19 test within seventy-two hours of the flight to board the plane. Upon arrival in Israel, travelers must quarantine in a state-run hotel for fourteen days. The quarantine time can be reduced to ten days with a negative test upon arrival in Tel Aviv and another on day nine.
Please pray for the government’s wisdom in knowing when and how much to open up Israel’s airport.
Asylum Seekers in Israel Get Vaccinated
Israel is trying hard to vaccinate everyone within its borders and has opened up a location in south Tel Aviv to administer the shot free of charge to asylum seekers, undocumented migrants, foreign workers, and non-residents. Though the Health Ministry has recently been criticized for not vaccinating those living in Gaza and parts of the West Bank, Israel has given thousands of doses to the Palestinian Authority to vaccinate its medical workers. The posters announcing the vaccination program said that no one would be deported upon giving their identification. Eytan Schwartz, a Tel Aviv municipality spokesman, stated that it was the responsibility of the government “to vaccinate everybody within the nation’s borders.” Next steps will include vaccinations for illegal and undocumented asylum seekers.
Please pray for the safety and health of Israel’s population of foreign workers, asylum seekers, and migrants.
Snow Possible in Jerusalem
After weeks of seasonal and above normal temperatures, Israel is about to get a massive winter storm. Meteorologists are saying it is too early to predict, but many are hoping for snow in Jerusalem this coming week. Israel experiences hot temperatures nine or ten months of the year, so it is fun to feel the powdery, cold snow every couple of years. Snow is a treat, and there are many who drive into the city from the coast to play in the snow. While top of Mount Hermon in Israel’s north always sees snow during the winter season, for many it is too far to drive from the center of the country where most people live. There is skiing and snowboarding available on the mount, but the roads to and from the mountain are often closed when there are too many people in the vicinity. The anticipated stormy weather will also help the water level in Sea of Galilee rise. Currently, the water is just a little more than thirty inches below the upper red line that indicates the lake is full. With Israel’s above average winter rainfall the past two years, the Deganya Dam might need to be fully opened in April 2021 for the first time in twenty-five years. The dam was partially opened in 2013 and was fully opened in 1995. It was supposed to be partially opened again in May 2020, but a bypass channel was dug instead. The channel allowed more than 1.3 billion gallons of water to be diverted to the southern Jordan River and to relieve the pumping stations of extra work and extra financial costs.
Please pray for safety on the roads and enough heat in people’s homes during this coming week’s change in weather.
Gearing Up to Celebrate Purim!
Over the next week and a half, our staff in Israel is getting ready to celebrate Purim! The festival of Purim remembers the biblical story of Esther and how she prayed and sought the Lord for deliverance from Haman, the wicked man who wanted to see the Jewish people in Persia destroyed. Today, it is a joyous holiday, mainly for kids to dress up, eat candy, share gifts, and revel in God’s deliverance. Our staff in Tel Aviv is planning a Zoom Purim event for children. We have celebrated Purim with a children’s event for the past five years; so this year, we are trying to make it special and fun for all. Please pray that the last details come together easily and that many see the advertisement and plan for the event on February 25. Our staff in Jerusalem will not be celebrating with Holocaust survivors as usual this year since gathering in groups is not permitted; however, they plan to distribute 300 gifts to them. Each gift will include mugs with a Bible verse from the book of Esther, hamantaschen (fruit-filled cookies), a pack of tea, and coffee. They are also busy preparing Purim food packages for families in need. With God’s help, they will bless 70 families. There is also an online meeting planned with Holocaust survivors from all around Israel on the topic, “The Spiritual Meaning of the Purim Holiday.”
Please pray that Chosen People Ministries—Israel will encourage many Holocaust survivors with the knowledge that the Lord knows our needs, worries, and fears and will provide direction and protection even when He does not seem present, just as He did for Esther and Mordechai.