(Washington, D.C.) — As the global death toll from the coronavirus climbs, the Israeli government is taking absolutely unprecedented measures in the history of the country — of any country — to protect its 9 million citizens and make sure that Israelis are not banned from entering or doing business with the rest of the world.
- Israel on Monday became the first country on the planet to essentially ban all in-coming travel from all countries to prevent the virus from engulfing Israel.
- Effective immediately, by the decision of Prime Minister Netanyahu and his Cabinet, all Israeli citizens who arrive back home are required to go immediately into quarantine for 14 days.
- Effective Thursday, no non-Israelis who arrive will be allowed to enter Israel unless they can prove they have a place to go into quarantine for 14 days.
- Most tourists, pilgrims and business executives are, therefore, not going to come to Israel in March, one of the busiest tourist seasons, involving Passover and Easter.
- What’s more, all tourists are being urged by the government to leave Israel “in an orderly manner in the coming days.”
- Israelis are also being urged by the government not to travel overseas unless absolutely necessary.
- Flights to Israel from all over the world are being canceled.
- At the same time, the West Bank is shut down — Bethlehem is under a full quarantine.
- This is going to be devastating for both the Israeli and Palestinian tourism, travel and hospitality sectors, and for many other sectors of both economies.
- “The Israel Incoming Tour Operators Association called the quarantine decision a ‘death blow’ to the tourism industry,”Channel 12 and the Times of Israel reported.
“After a day of complex discussions, we have made a decision,” Netanyahu told the nation on Monday evening, reported The . “Whoever arrives in Israel from abroad will enter quarantine for 14 days. This is a difficult decision but it is essential to maintaining public health, which takes precedence over everything.”
There are now 50 cases of people with the virus on Israel, up from just 21 on Friday. Thank God, so far there have been no deaths.
Please pray for both Israelis and Palestinians as we combat the virus.
Please pray for world leaders and health authorities to have the wisdom — and God’s mercy — to save lives and quickly and effectively stop this virus before it becomes a worst-case scenario.
Please pray that the Lord would be gracious to those whose jobs and businesses are being adversely affected by the virus.
Finally, I would encourage Evangelical Christians to continue planning to come to Israel later in the year on tours, pilgrimages, study opportunities, prayer trips, volunteer opportunities, and so forth. Israel is a very safe country. Officials are taking the challenge very seriously. And it would be a real blessing for Evangelicals to stand with Israelis and Palestinians, pray for us, and help the Israeli and Palestinian economies by visiting at this time. Our ministry, The Joshua Fund, has a tour to Israel and Egypt in October. See below for more information. I would encourage you to register. We’ll certainly let you know if the trip doesn’t happen, but we expect everything to be fine by then.
Thanks so much, and I’ll keep you posted on these and other developments on this blog and on Twitter.