Visiting Israel during COVID-19


James Kwak ('22)

Vacation during COVID-19 is different, especially in Israel.

Although the coronavirus prevented and stalled many families’ travels, my family still decided to go on vacation. While still abiding by the necessary precautions, we traveled to Israel because we have not visited our relatives for many years. Luckily, everything had worked out perfectly. For the entire flight, we wore masks and took our seats with one space between everyone. When we arrived, it was a bit strange seeing all our relatives (grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins) and not being able to hug them.

Luckily, our grandparents had kept their unit downstairs rent-free, so we could stay there instead of a hotel in Tel-Aviv. It was extremely convenient as we could go outside (as long as we kept a distance from everyone), cook our own food, and do our own laundry without coming into contact with my relatives at all, but still being close to them. Despite the two week setback of quarantine, the memories that we made were unforgettable.

When we were finally out of quarantine, I noticed many differences between COVID policies in the U.S. compared to those in Israel. Because Israel took measures to combat the coronavirus in schools and workplaces earlier, early summertime regulations were much looser than those in the United States. Also, the decreasing number of cases in Israel compared to the number of cases per person in N.J. correlated with Israel’s more flexible provisions. Obviously, I was over the moon to go to a place where most restaurants and malls were open as long as people wore masks continuously. The regulations that Israel had in early June reflect those of New Jersey currently. There was outdoor dining, beaches, indoor gyms, and public gatherings of no more than fifty. People could have also gone to clubs and pubs with the same restrictions.

When my family and I went to the Dead Sea, it was strange to see the place almost entirely empty. Pre-COVID, when we used to visit, the area was so packed you could barely get your own floating space. Now, I was shocked to see only six families (we included) near one of the Dead Sea pools. Additionally, one week, when we went to Eilat, the southernmost part of Israel, I was elated with the overall ambiance and flexibility in the hotel. The pool was open to all, multiple beaches were surrounding us, and the best part was that my brother and I were able to go scuba diving in the Red Sea.

It was an incredible experience, and I couldn’t believe that the instructor got to do this every day, even though the virus persisted. I am incredibly grateful that I was able to experience scuba-diving this summer and visit my entire family during this challenging and uncertain time.