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Jerusalem opens to pilgrims after two years of pandemic lockdown


JekLi | Shutterstock

J-P Mauro - published on 03/13/22

Israel loosens restrictions as severe cases of COVID-19 drop significantly.

The dire days of pandemic induced lockdowns are receding and now, like a shadowless groundhog who emerges to revel in an early spring, Jerusalem is marking a return to its pilgrimage sites. On March 1, Israel reopened its borders to pilgrims after two years of closures due to the world pandemic.

It has been a rough few years for Israel, as communities that relied on tourist and pilgrim traffic have been forced to do without. In September, Aleteia reported on attempts to reopen that ultimately failed in early summer and autumn. The nation had further planned to return to normalcy for the 2021 Christmas season, but these hopes were dashed by the Omicron variant. 

Israel reopened

Now Asia News reports that Israel is back on track to accept foreign visitors, after a massive vaccination campaign. The Jewish nation has noted a lower level of hospitalizations per COVID-19 infection, signaling what is believed to be a gradual return to the norm.

Asia News interviewed Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Pierbattista Pizzaballa, who spoke with guarded enthusiasm about their future: 

“We have come to terms with a lot of fragility and loneliness, but in these months I have also seen a great desire to restart. We too are wondering what the before and after of the pandemic will be like; there are no certain answers yet, but I believe that we must first of all work.”

Patriarch Pizzaballa went on to express his hopes that celebrating a “normal” season of Lent will help the faithful get back into full spiritual swing. He admitted that his optimism is matched by caution, but he believes this is a step in the right direction. He went on to lament the downward trend in vocations that Israel has experienced in recent years. 


Visitors to Israel, be they pilgrims or tourists, are now welcome whether they are vaccinated or not. The country. which once required a Green Pass to enter tourist hotspots or houses of worship, has done away with this requirement.

According to the Jerusalem Post, those who enter the country will still need to take a PCR test before and after their flight. Furthermore, visitors must still wear a mask, especially while using public transportation, where it is required.

Israel’s Prime Minister Naftali Bennett commented: 

“The situation in Israel is good at the moment. It is a result of proper and dynamic management, which is also why we are opening up now. At the same time, we will keep our fingers on the pulse, and in case of a new variant, we will again respond quickly.”

First visitors

The Orthodox Times recently reported on the first group of Romanian pilgrims to have taken the trip to Israel. These were some of the first people to enjoy the biblical sights this decade, as the pandemic shuttered Israel’s borders in early 2020. 

On this pilgrimage, the group visited the Monastery of St. George of Choziba, where the relics of St. John Jacob, a 20th-century Romanian monk who became a hermit in the Holy Land, are housed. They also visited the Jordan River and took a walk through the biblical city of Jericho. These are just some of the sites that have reopened, with more being made ready to accept pilgrims in coming months. 

Read more about Israel’s efforts to reopen at Asian News.

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