It has been reported that Israel will be reopening its gates to fully vaccinated tour groups on May 23. In the words of Israel’s tourism minister, Orit Farkash-Hacohen, “It is time that Israel’s unique advantage as a safe and healthy country starts to assist it in recovering from the economic crisis, and not only serve other countries’ economies. Only opening the skies for international tourism will truly revive the tourism industry.”
The reopening to tourists will happen in three stages. Beginning on May 23, the country will let in a small number of tour groups, about 10 to 20 per day, led by licensed tour providers. Tourists will still need to test for COVID before the flight, and test for antibodies upon arrival. A few weeks later, assuming case
numbers remain low, the number of tour groups allowed in per day will rise. Israel then hopes to reopen to individuals and families who are vaccinated.
In response to this opening of the skies, the Religious Zionists of America (RZA)-Mizrachi has announced their first post-COVID leadership mission, scheduled to take place in late May. Almost completely booked to date, the delegation is designed to send a strong message to American Jews that when they are comfortable traveling again, their first destination should be Israel.
RZA Executive Vice President Rabbi Ari Rockoff said, “As more Americans are being vaccinated and contemplating travel, we wanted to send a strong message to the Jewish community that instead of visiting Dubai, the Caribbean or other exotic destinations, our priority should be getting back to Israel…The start-up nation has now also become the vaccinated nation! As Israel relaxes its travel restrictions, we wanted to be among the first organized trips back home.”
The RZA-Mizrachi trip, dubbed “A Journey Home,” will take place May 25-31 and will be based in Jerusalem. The delegation, which is being limited to 50 participants, is almost completely filled, with over 100 on the waiting list. The itinerary, which is still in the process of being formalized, will include briefings by key Israeli political and rabbinical leaders, and meetings with top Israeli physicians who served at the forefront of Israel’s remarkable battle against COVID, and the group will also hear from Israeli business leaders and heads of NGOs whose innovations helped alleviate the economic and social consequences of the pandemic.
Tours of new Religious Zionist communities and dining with heroes guarding Israel’s borders and religious sites will be incorporated into the itinerary. Shabbat will be spent in the company of worldwide Mizrachi leaders as well as the Orthodox Israel’s Coalition’s delegates currently serving in leading Israeli institutions. A gala musical concert will close the mission followed by an opportunity for attendees to visit local family members and friends.
Assuming his position as executive vice-president of RZA six months ago, Rabbi Ari Rockoff brings with him an extensive knowledge of organizational strategy and management. Previously, Rockoff served as the founding director of leadership development and strategic partnerships at the Orthodox Union. Prior to the OU, Rockoff spent more than a decade at Yeshiva University, where he was part of the founding team of the Center for the Jewish Future and the associate dean of institutional advancement at the Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and the Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies. A graduate of YU’s Sy Syms School of Business and a musmach of REITS, Rockoff earned a master’s in education from the Azrieli Graduate School as well as an MBA from CUNY’s Baruch College, where his studies focused on organizational behavior. Rockoff is a native of Boston. He currently resides in West Hempstead with wife Deborah and their five children.
As a new member of the RZA-Mizrachi team, Rockoff sees his mission as reinvigorating the organization founded in 1913 as the American branch of World Mizrachi. He hopes to strengthen its goal to inspire a commitment to religious Zionism, to preserve Jewish political freedom within the US and worldwide, to enhance religious life in the State of Israel and to promote American immigration to Israel.
Visit www.rza.org to learn of its many ongoing projects as well as its upcoming mission to Israel.
By Pearl Markovitz