Airport COVID Chaos Continues: Israeli Families Fight to Get Permission for Their Kids to Fly

Anyone not vaccinated, including children, who wishes to leave the country, must still obtain permission from authorities

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Ben-Gurion Airport this week.
Ben-Gurion Airport this week.Credit: Ilan Assayag

Gal and his wife have a six-week-old baby who has yet to meet his grandparents who live in Croatia. For various reasons, the new parents have decided to spend the coming year with family abroad. They bid farewell to their friends, packed up their apartment and are supposed to fly in a few days.

According to the government decision from earlier this week, outbound travelers from Israel who are vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19 no longer need to obtain permission from the Exceptions Committee. But the unvaccinated still must obtain permission.

Such requests are supposed to be granted if the travel is “for the purpose of vital medical treatment for the traveler or another person who is dependent on the traveler; to attend the funeral of a first-degree relative; to aid a first-degree relative; to attend a legal proceeding; for a vital need pertaining to Israel’s foreign relations or national security; for a professional athlete going to participate in a competition; and for humanitarian need, or special personal need that necessitates leaving Israel.”

Gal and his wife are both vaccinated, so they didn’t anticipate any problem, but then they discovered that their children are still required to apply to leave the country since they are not vaccinated, according to the new rules. After submitting an application three days ago and receiving no response, they submitted another application Tuesday and finally received permission.

“How did we come to a situation where a baby with two vaccinated parents needs approval to fly?” Gal asks. “Set us free, set the kids free. They can’t get vaccinated, what do you want from them? What is this abuse? I understand that the government wants to encourage people to get vaccinated. But this is a baby. He can’t get the vaccine.”

Many Israelis who wish to fly have struggled to obtain approval from the committee.

Sivan, who has lived in Italy for seven years, encountered another problem that illustrates the chaos and helplessness that people are experiencing in dealing with the committee. Her four-year-old son received permission to fly, but her seven-year-old daughter was denied. Sivan came to Israel a month ago for the unveiling of her father’s tombstone and has since been unable to return to her home in Rome because the flights there were canceled.

Israel's Ben Gurion Airport, earlier this monthCredit: JACK GUEZ / AFP

“I appealed the rejection of my daughter’s application and was turned down a second time,” Sivan says. “I can’t understand how they could approve my son but not my daughter. I am vaccinated, and we’ve been living in Italy for several years already. I submitted another application with a few more words, and I added that I do not plan to return to Israel in the coming months. It was basically the same content just with slightly different wording. And then I received permission. Now the only problem is to find a flight.”

The Transportation Ministry responded: “Israelis, including children, who do not have a vaccination certificate or a certificate that shows they have recovered from the virus, are required to obtain permission from the Exceptions Committee before departing and are required to enter home quarantine upon their return to Israel. Israelis who are vaccinated or recovered from the virus may leave the country without having to apply to the Exceptions Committee.”

The ministry added: “The Exceptions Committee examines thousands of applications daily. Some applications were initially rejected since required documents were not attached, and subsequently approved when the missing documents were submitted. Others were rejected at first and then approved the second time around, when the reason for the application was fully explained."

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