Letting tourists back into Israel is a risk worth taking

Israel should follow France’s example and allow anyone with a negative COVID-19 test enter the country.

The arrivals hall at Ben-Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv on March 8, 2021. Photo by Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90.
The arrivals hall at Ben-Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv on March 8, 2021. Photo by Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90.
Farley Weiss
Farley Weiss is chairman of the Israel Heritage Foundation (IHF) and former president of the National Council of Young Israel.

Israel has been the leading country in defeating COVID-19 through its early decision to obtain and efficiently distribute the Pfizer vaccine to its populace. The results have been remarkable, and many lives have been saved.

Israel was finally ready to open up to tourism on July 1—now postponing it to Aug. 1—and faces the question of what restrictions, if any, should be imposed in order to allow in visitors while keeping the country safe from additional infection.

A class on insurance I once attended at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania was helpful in understanding proper risk-taking. The instructor asked whether any of us would pick a piece of paper out of a hat containing 100, one of which said that we would die and the other 99 granted us $100,000. The answer was unanimously negative.

She then asked the same question, but upped the number to 1,000, with same the single note about death, and the rest offering the same sum of money. Again, the answer was unanimously negative.

When she raised the number to 10,000, only two students answered in the affirmative. I was one of them; a friend of mine was the other. We were the only kipah-wearing participants in the class.

She told us that we were right to consider this a worthy risk, as one in 10,000 are the odds of death or serious injury that we take each day when driving a car.

Her answer was similar to that of an Orthodox-Jewish plastic surgeon whom I asked: “How are you able to observe Jewish law while performing many medically unnecessary operations whose sole purpose is to make a patient look better?” He replied that his rabbi had said that as long as a specific surgery is basically as safe as driving a car, performing it is acceptable in Jewish law.

There are certain scientific facts that have become apparent since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic that has caused so much damage. American radiologist Dr. Nicole Saphier, director of breast imaging at Memorial Sloan Kettering Monmouth, New Jersey and a regular contributor to Fox News, told the network that very few people who contracted the virus in the past 17 months have gotten infected a second time.

She pointed to statistics indicating that there is a greater chance of contracting the virus after vaccination than after recovering from the virus.

Harvard Medical School professor Dr. Martin Kulidorff, a biostatistician and epidemiologist at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, opposes vaccines for patients who recovered from COVID-19. He believes that the science shows that the vaccine doesn’t provide additional protection and poses unnecessary risks.

The results in Israel and the United States show that the vaccines have worked very well in curbing the virus and preventing many deaths. COVID hit Israel the hardest in January when it had 1,200 serious cases. Due to its mass distribution of the vaccine, critical cases are now down to 26, with no deaths occurring the past week.

Even in the rare breakthrough cases of people getting infected after receiving the vaccine, very few were seriously ill.  In Massachusetts, for example, 4,000 out of 3,700,000 residents who received the vaccine ended up contracting the virus anyway, but those cases were mainly asymptomatic, and the ratio of death and serious illness in those cases was less than 1 in 10,000. Even with the new Delta variant, which appears to be more contagious and dangerous, the evidence continues to be that the vaccines protect against it. The only concern about it surrounds those who neither recovered from COVID nor received the vaccine. In Israel, very few adults are in this category.

There have been very few deaths or severe illness among teenagers and younger kids. As a result, the World Health Organization recommends against vaccinating children under 18, as does Dr. Kulidorff and Stanford professor of medicine Dr. Jay Bhattacharya.

The issue is not whether many teenagers get the virus, but whether it is significantly hurting them or whether they are infecting adults. In places like Israel, where about 85 percent of adults are vaccinated, there are very few left for teenagers to infect. Israel’s hospitalization and death rates plummeted well before the first 12-15-year-olds became vaccinated, which means that teenagers are not the source of illness or death from COVID.

Meanwhile, COVID testing is becoming very accurate. As a result of this and the above information, France has decided to let in all tourists, whether vaccinated or not, as long as they test negative for the virus within 72 hours of entering.

Since the evidence shows those who have recovered or have been vaccinated are not at real risk for contracting COVID, the risk of tourists causing severe illness or death in the country is minimal. The concern should not be whether teenagers are getting COVID; it should only be on whether the number of people getting seriously ill or dying from it is starting to rise at an alarming rate.

Israel, thus, should follow France’s example. Israel is now so heavily vaccinated that there appears to be little risk in allowing tourists who test negative to enter the country. In this case, the benefit of resuming tourism seems to outweigh the risk.

Farley Weiss, former president of the National Council of Young Israel, is an intellectual property attorney for the law firm of Weiss & Moy. The views expressed are the author’s, and not necessarily representative of NCYI.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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