Author Topic: ExGingi's COVID-19 Era experiences taking a trip to Israel  (Read 1210 times)

Offline ExGingi

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ExGingi's COVID-19 Era experiences taking a trip to Israel
« on: March 07, 2021, 03:06:06 PM »
I never thought I'd write this, but out of כבוד אכסניא
TR please.

I decided to write up some of my experiences and musings.

Quite a bit was posted shortly after it was experienced in this thread, and if mods want to move those here, they are welcome to do so.

I have lived in the US my entire adult life, and for many years took very few trips to Israel, mostly for family reasons. However, in recent years I have tried to visit about 3x per year. I don't view my trips as trips to Israel, but rather as trips to visit family and help where needed. Occasionally there might also be a business need involved.

After last leaving Israel in mid-February 2020 (concluding a 6-day visit) I have been unable to schedule a trip. For many months the guidelines of the Israeli government were that anyone entering would require a 14 day quarantine. That would mean that any trip that would serve any purpose would have to be longer than that. It was simply something I couldn't afford to do. When they said that those that recovered from COVID-19 would be exempt from quarantine, there was initial hope, but if said recovery was outside of Israel they required a Positive PCR test followed by a Negative PCR test in order to document recovery from COVID-19. Since I got COVID-19 back in March of 2020, when PCR tests weren't administered if one didn't have severe symptoms, I wasn't able to document my recovery. The advent of antibody tests didn't help, as the Israeli authorities refused to accept those as proof of prior infection (without any logical explanation).

Then in September or October, a glimpse of hope came up, as the Israeli government finally decided to accept Antibody tests as (partial) proof of prior infection, as long as an additional antibody test was taken in Israel. DW went to Israel then based on that premise, but without any explanation, they went back on that policy by the time she had landed. Her flight was a last-moment decision, so she went there on DL (booked with FlyingBlue) in economy, which wasn't too bad as the flight wasn't full and she was able to stretch on several seats. And the return was booked on UA utilizing plan B, which worked like a charm.

All along I knew of many that simply got Positive PCR tests "manufactured" for them, allowing them to go to Israel without having to quarantine. I was reluctant to do that, as I was on record saying that I didn't have a positive PCR test and asked for a quarantine exemption based on my antibody test.

In recent months, the Israelis decided to allow quarantine exit on day 10, if one got a negative PCR test on day 9. That made it a little more palatable. In February circumstance made it clear that I will have no choice but to go, even if that meant doing 10 day quarantine (whether in a hotel, or with relatives). It was somewhat mitigated by the opportunity to explore some business opportunities, so I was mentally ready for it, though still wanted to avoid it.

And then the need to travel became urgent.

Step #1 was getting permission to enter the country. I do have an Israeli passport (which up until now has been nothing but a burden with no benefit), so I didn't face the limitations of non-citizens, and applied to go for urgent humanitarian reasons. The request was submitted right after Shabbos, and until I received a response I couldn't do anything else. Trying to pull strings didn't help, but eventually, the permission to enter came on Wednesday morning. By that time the urgent reason for travel had BH turned out with a reasonable outcome, making the trip a drop less urgent.

The following week was my son's bar-mitzvah, so I figured I'd go after the bar-mitzvah.

I booked myself a UA plan B for the Motzoei Shabbos following the Bar-Mitzvah.

On Shabbos before the Bar-Mitzvah I davened in a different minyan than I usually do, and happened to have been seated next to someone who told me he could help me with a verifiable PCR test. While I never thought I would do that, I did call him on Sunday asking him to get me a positive PCR test dated a certain date, so that I could use that along with a fresh negative PCR test as proof of recovery.

In the meantime, the personal situation in Israel kept on changing, and the urgency seemed to have moved up a notch. And then I glanced at my entry authorization, only to notice that it said it was valid for one week only, meaning that it had already expired. I contacted whoever I knew, submitted additional requests to have it extended etc. etc. but to no avail. I figured that in a worst-case scenario I would just edit the document I received in order to make it appear current and valid.

While I was trying to get a fresh entry authorization, I found out that a positive PCR test from the US followed by a negative PCR test from the US will no longer be sufficient in order to exit quarantine. An antibody test conducted in Israel is the only way to exit quarantine if one had recovered (or been vaccinated) in the US. While I did have a positive antibody test from June 2020, subsequent tests showed that my antibody levels were on the low end. Not wanting to be stuck in quarantine in Israel (more on what that means later on) I decided to ask my Dr. to give me a vaccine, which I expected would boost my antibody levels. Luckily, my Dr. agreed (there were other factors that made me eligible, but I guess the humanitarian reason helped me get an earlier appointment) and I got my vaccine (1st dose) on 2/17.

That night we celebrated my son's bar-mitzvah, and he got his aliya the next morning, after which I went to get a PCR test in preparation for my flight on Motzoei Shabbos. The entire day I wasn't feeling great. I attributed it to vaccine side-effects and continued to prepare for my trip. And then I got notice from UA that my flight was canceled. With the help of @nafnaf12 I got one of the last seats available on the DL flight leaving Sunday night, and then....

And then, on Friday early afternoon I get a call from the place where I took the PCR test, telling me that it came back positive!

Impossible, I said. This must be a false positive, or maybe just because I got the vaccine the day prior. However, for practical purposes, I was now facing the real possibility that after everything I might not be able to fly. In addition, I needed to be abundantly cautious, just in case the result was real, and avoided going to shul on Shabbos, and stood at the door of a nearby minyan, while wearing a mask, in order to hear זכור. A large gathering that was scheduled for Shabbos in my house also changed the venue.

On Motzoei Shabbos I called my neighbor who is studying to become a Paramed, and does COVID tests, asking him to test myself (PCR and Rapid) and my family (rapid) for COVID-19. Hoping to get a negative PCR test on time before the flight. He promised to send it to one of the fastest labs around. All the rapid tests came back negative, BH, and I went to sleep hoping to get my negative PCR test in the morning. When I didn't get the results in the morning, I called another friend who sent me to LabQ where I got a fresh PCR test, which he said he could rush for me. When I got my results late in the afternoon, I started preparing for the trip in earnest.

At that time, anyone entering Israel was required to go to a quarantine hotel. Not knowing where I would go, and how long I would have to stay, DW had packed for me half a suitcase with food for the potential quarantine. With negative PCR test in hand (the test taken the previous night came back negative when I was on the way to the airport), and the entry authorization (with date on top edited, so that one week validity would still be in range) in hand, I headed to the airport.

At DL Sky Priority check in, I showed my Israeli passport, and when I offered my entry authorization, I was told it wasn't required from Israeli citizens. But was required to fill out a quarantine form that would generate a permission document to board a flight. Since at the time it was quarantine hotels, no actual address was required, only a city. Since Kfar Chabad wasn't an option, I put in Jerusalem, hoping that things would be easier there with food etc. and the boarding authorization was issues, with a quarantine location listed as "Jerusalem".

I had flown DL in J in the past on my way to TLV via SVO on a 767. I found the seat to be narrow and not very comfortable for sleeping, but an excellent soft product (though one of the KSMLs was actually spoiled!). Other than that I flew DL one time in J from TLV to JFK quite a few years ago. I can't recall if it was a 777 or a 747, but that was one of the best flights I had from TLV to NYC. I reclined the seat prior to take off, and fell asleep with the plush bedding, only to wake up about two hours prior to landing. That is where the value of J is for me.

With the exception of two trips on AA via Philly (shortly after they took over US), most of my flights between the US and TLV in recent years have been on TK or LX, so this was my first non-stop NYC-TLV flight in a while.

To sum it up. I am not a fan of the Delta One suites. Privacy is a gimmick. I don't find the closing doors adding much privacy over what I would get in a reverse herringbone layout. And TBH, the narrow aisles of the A330 make everything seem a lot less spacious than the wide-open spaces I am accustomed to on the TK 777 (or even A330). Most importantly, I don't (and I assume most others don't) sleep in a position that looks like someone is standing (laying) to attention. I might want to put my hands or arms under my head or lay on my side while slightly bending my knees. The seat simply doesn't allow for any of those positions, resulting in a less than optimal sleep.

The Regal KSML was a somewhat pleasant surprise. While I don't go for meat entrees, so I can't comment on that, the rest (with the exception of the breads!!! They felt so hard that I didn't even try taking them out of their wrappers) was pleasantly surprising. Even the omelet served for breakfast was surprisingly decent. I would probably rank it 6.5 or 7 on the Stogel-Hermolis KSML scale (with a full point lost due to the bread situation).

While face masks or coverings are required throughout the flight, when one is laying flat in the seat and cabin lights dimmed, no-one seems to bother if I'm not strict about it.

....up next, landing at TLV with constantly changing COVID-19 rules and regulations.
« Last Edit: March 07, 2021, 03:58:09 PM by ExGingi »
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Offline Yo ssi

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Re: ExGingi's COVID-19 Era experiences taking a trip to Israel
« Reply #1 on: March 07, 2021, 03:15:28 PM »
Wow!
It would be nice for this to be in a different board.

Offline ExGingi

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Re: ExGingi's COVID-19 Era experiences taking a trip to Israel
« Reply #2 on: March 07, 2021, 03:43:03 PM »
Wow!
It would be nice for this to be in a different board.

That's up to the mods. I really see this more as COVID-19 related than a trip report. And as I mentioned elsewhere, my experiences are unique to my situation. Much of it is irrelevant to others. If not for @Dan's urging I wouldn't write anything.
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Offline Yehuda25

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Re: ExGingi's COVID-19 Era experiences taking a trip to Israel
« Reply #3 on: March 07, 2021, 09:01:25 PM »
I never thought I'd write this, but out of כבוד אכסניא
I decided to write up some of my experiences and musings.

Quite a bit was posted shortly after it was experienced in this thread, and if mods want to move those here, they are welcome to do so.

I have lived in the US my entire adult life, and for many years took very few trips to Israel, mostly for family reasons. However, in recent years I have tried to visit about 3x per year. I don't view my trips as trips to Israel, but rather as trips to visit family and help where needed. Occasionally there might also be a business need involved.

After last leaving Israel in mid-February 2020 (concluding a 6-day visit) I have been unable to schedule a trip. For many months the guidelines of the Israeli government were that anyone entering would require a 14 day quarantine. That would mean that any trip that would serve any purpose would have to be longer than that. It was simply something I couldn't afford to do. When they said that those that recovered from COVID-19 would be exempt from quarantine, there was initial hope, but if said recovery was outside of Israel they required a Positive PCR test followed by a Negative PCR test in order to document recovery from COVID-19. Since I got COVID-19 back in March of 2020, when PCR tests weren't administered if one didn't have severe symptoms, I wasn't able to document my recovery. The advent of antibody tests didn't help, as the Israeli authorities refused to accept those as proof of prior infection (without any logical explanation).

Then in September or October, a glimpse of hope came up, as the Israeli government finally decided to accept Antibody tests as (partial) proof of prior infection, as long as an additional antibody test was taken in Israel. DW went to Israel then based on that premise, but without any explanation, they went back on that policy by the time she had landed. Her flight was a last-moment decision, so she went there on DL (booked with FlyingBlue) in economy, which wasn't too bad as the flight wasn't full and she was able to stretch on several seats. And the return was booked on UA utilizing plan B, which worked like a charm.

All along I knew of many that simply got Positive PCR tests "manufactured" for them, allowing them to go to Israel without having to quarantine. I was reluctant to do that, as I was on record saying that I didn't have a positive PCR test and asked for a quarantine exemption based on my antibody test.

In recent months, the Israelis decided to allow quarantine exit on day 10, if one got a negative PCR test on day 9. That made it a little more palatable. In February circumstance made it clear that I will have no choice but to go, even if that meant doing 10 day quarantine (whether in a hotel, or with relatives). It was somewhat mitigated by the opportunity to explore some business opportunities, so I was mentally ready for it, though still wanted to avoid it.

And then the need to travel became urgent.

Step #1 was getting permission to enter the country. I do have an Israeli passport (which up until now has been nothing but a burden with no benefit), so I didn't face the limitations of non-citizens, and applied to go for urgent humanitarian reasons. The request was submitted right after Shabbos, and until I received a response I couldn't do anything else. Trying to pull strings didn't help, but eventually, the permission to enter came on Wednesday morning. By that time the urgent reason for travel had BH turned out with a reasonable outcome, making the trip a drop less urgent.

The following week was my son's bar-mitzvah, so I figured I'd go after the bar-mitzvah.

I booked myself a UA plan B for the Motzoei Shabbos following the Bar-Mitzvah.

On Shabbos before the Bar-Mitzvah I davened in a different minyan than I usually do, and happened to have been seated next to someone who told me he could help me with a verifiable PCR test. While I never thought I would do that, I did call him on Sunday asking him to get me a positive PCR test dated a certain date, so that I could use that along with a fresh negative PCR test as proof of recovery.

In the meantime, the personal situation in Israel kept on changing, and the urgency seemed to have moved up a notch. And then I glanced at my entry authorization, only to notice that it said it was valid for one week only, meaning that it had already expired. I contacted whoever I knew, submitted additional requests to have it extended etc. etc. but to no avail. I figured that in a worst-case scenario I would just edit the document I received in order to make it appear current and valid.

While I was trying to get a fresh entry authorization, I found out that a positive PCR test from the US followed by a negative PCR test from the US will no longer be sufficient in order to exit quarantine. An antibody test conducted in Israel is the only way to exit quarantine if one had recovered (or been vaccinated) in the US. While I did have a positive antibody test from June 2020, subsequent tests showed that my antibody levels were on the low end. Not wanting to be stuck in quarantine in Israel (more on what that means later on) I decided to ask my Dr. to give me a vaccine, which I expected would boost my antibody levels. Luckily, my Dr. agreed (there were other factors that made me eligible, but I guess the humanitarian reason helped me get an earlier appointment) and I got my vaccine (1st dose) on 2/17.

That night we celebrated my son's bar-mitzvah, and he got his aliya the next morning, after which I went to get a PCR test in preparation for my flight on Motzoei Shabbos. The entire day I wasn't feeling great. I attributed it to vaccine side-effects and continued to prepare for my trip. And then I got notice from UA that my flight was canceled. With the help of @nafnaf12 I got one of the last seats available on the DL flight leaving Sunday night, and then....

And then, on Friday early afternoon I get a call from the place where I took the PCR test, telling me that it came back positive!

Impossible, I said. This must be a false positive, or maybe just because I got the vaccine the day prior. However, for practical purposes, I was now facing the real possibility that after everything I might not be able to fly. In addition, I needed to be abundantly cautious, just in case the result was real, and avoided going to shul on Shabbos, and stood at the door of a nearby minyan, while wearing a mask, in order to hear זכור. A large gathering that was scheduled for Shabbos in my house also changed the venue.

On Motzoei Shabbos I called my neighbor who is studying to become a Paramed, and does COVID tests, asking him to test myself (PCR and Rapid) and my family (rapid) for COVID-19. Hoping to get a negative PCR test on time before the flight. He promised to send it to one of the fastest labs around. All the rapid tests came back negative, BH, and I went to sleep hoping to get my negative PCR test in the morning. When I didn't get the results in the morning, I called another friend who sent me to LabQ where I got a fresh PCR test, which he said he could rush for me. When I got my results late in the afternoon, I started preparing for the trip in earnest.

At that time, anyone entering Israel was required to go to a quarantine hotel. Not knowing where I would go, and how long I would have to stay, DW had packed for me half a suitcase with food for the potential quarantine. With negative PCR test in hand (the test taken the previous night came back negative when I was on the way to the airport), and the entry authorization (with date on top edited, so that one week validity would still be in range) in hand, I headed to the airport.

At DL Sky Priority check in, I showed my Israeli passport, and when I offered my entry authorization, I was told it wasn't required from Israeli citizens. But was required to fill out a quarantine form that would generate a permission document to board a flight. Since at the time it was quarantine hotels, no actual address was required, only a city. Since Kfar Chabad wasn't an option, I put in Jerusalem, hoping that things would be easier there with food etc. and the boarding authorization was issues, with a quarantine location listed as "Jerusalem".

I had flown DL in J in the past on my way to TLV via SVO on a 767. I found the seat to be narrow and not very comfortable for sleeping, but an excellent soft product (though one of the KSMLs was actually spoiled!). Other than that I flew DL one time in J from TLV to JFK quite a few years ago. I can't recall if it was a 777 or a 747, but that was one of the best flights I had from TLV to NYC. I reclined the seat prior to take off, and fell asleep with the plush bedding, only to wake up about two hours prior to landing. That is where the value of J is for me.

With the exception of two trips on AA via Philly (shortly after they took over US), most of my flights between the US and TLV in recent years have been on TK or LX, so this was my first non-stop NYC-TLV flight in a while.

To sum it up. I am not a fan of the Delta One suites. Privacy is a gimmick. I don't find the closing doors adding much privacy over what I would get in a reverse herringbone layout. And TBH, the narrow aisles of the A330 make everything seem a lot less spacious than the wide-open spaces I am accustomed to on the TK 777 (or even A330). Most importantly, I don't (and I assume most others don't) sleep in a position that looks like someone is standing (laying) to attention. I might want to put my hands or arms under my head or lay on my side while slightly bending my knees. The seat simply doesn't allow for any of those positions, resulting in a less than optimal sleep.

The Regal KSML was a somewhat pleasant surprise. While I don't go for meat entrees, so I can't comment on that, the rest (with the exception of the breads!!! They felt so hard that I didn't even try taking them out of their wrappers) was pleasantly surprising. Even the omelet served for breakfast was surprisingly decent. I would probably rank it 6.5 or 7 on the Stogel-Hermolis KSML scale (with a full point lost due to the bread situation).

While face masks or coverings are required throughout the flight, when one is laying flat in the seat and cabin lights dimmed, no-one seems to bother if I'm not strict about it.

....up next, landing at TLV with constantly changing COVID-19 rules and regulations.
Wow!!
“To avoid criticism say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.”


― Aristotle

Offline EliJelly

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Re: ExGingi's COVID-19 Era experiences taking a trip to Israel
« Reply #4 on: March 08, 2021, 01:18:35 AM »
Wow, unbelievable times we are in. And mazel tov to your son's Bar mitzva!

Offline ExGingi

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Re: ExGingi's COVID-19 Era experiences taking a trip to Israel
« Reply #5 on: June 14, 2021, 06:08:22 PM »
I still owe the next installment of that February trip. It's been a couple of hectic months and I'm on my way back from TLV for the 3rd time in less than 6 months. BH the fact that there are many seats on the NYC-TLV route, meant that grabbing a last minute seat in Business Saver was doable.

I know that my definition of Herzliya is different that most here, but just thought that it's worth sharing that during COVID-19 times a new eatery opened up in Herzliya under the Hashgocho of Rav Landa from BB! The place is split in two, with a fleshing storefront and a pereve storefront (selling falafel, shakshooka, sabich, etc). I was in a rush when I stopped there and wasn't sure how the rest of my day would go, so I didn't even look at the fleshing side. I took an order of French Fries (decent) and a Pareve Kube (surprisingly decent - though I had it warmed up, so it wasn't crispy. It was filled with a mixture of mushrooms, onions and nuts).

It's on Sokolov 13 between Hanadiv and Hanitzanim.



I did see there signs for Wolt an Ten Bis (not sure what is done to maintain Kashrus for deliveries).
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Re: ExGingi's COVID-19 Era experiences taking a trip to Israel
« Reply #6 on: June 14, 2021, 06:52:56 PM »
Cool installment, thanks.

Isn’t Kubbeh meat-filled semolina balls served in a beet soup? Do you mean Kibbeh?