MANILA – The Philippines has become one of the top tourist destinations for the Israeli people in the last few years with the latter enjoying the similarities in culture of both countries.
“You'll see quite a number of Israeli tourists picking up very quickly, from youngsters to families. So, you will see, of course, a lot of youth coming to the Philippines, young Israelis who are doing backpacking, honeymooners,” Israeli Ambassador to the Philippines H.E. Ilan Fluss told Philippine News Agency (PNA) in an interview on Thursday at the sidelines of the Manila Roadshow of Israel’s Ministry of Tourism.
Citing opportunities in the innovation and technology, Fluss said entrepreneurs and other people from the business sector are also travelling between Israel and the Philippines.
He said family values and openness to foreigners are a couple of similarities seen among Filipinos and the Israeli people that are drawing his people to the Philippines, and may encourage Filipinos to visit Israel as well.
“The Filipinos and Israeli are the same, very, very friendly. And, I see this every day as the Israeli ambassador, it is fantastic,” Fluss said.
Moreover, the Israeli Ambassador said opportunities in the innovation and technology sector see entrepreneurs and other people from the business sector travelling between Israel and the Philippines.
The good relations between the two countries have strong historical foundations which began in the 1930’s.
“As you know, Second World War, we suffered the Holocaust from the Nazis, Nazi Germany exterminated 6 million Jews, there was a buildup of the Nazi regime, so the Jews were trying to escape,” Fluss recounted.
“Jews were allowed to enter the Philippines as refugees, safe, living here. That's very significant because most countries around the world closed their doors and did not allow Jewish refugees to enter the countries,” he noted.
Furthermore, the Philippines supported a resolution in the United Nations on the establishment of the Jewish state of Israel in 1947.
The country’s humanitarian gesture towards the Jewish people and support to the State of Isreal were returned by the Israeli government through its unending assistance in times of emergencies especially those brought about by natural disasters.
“With typhoon Odette in 2013, we established the first field hospital outside the Cebu Island, as well as search and rescue teams. And then just recently, we delivered some assistance in Cebu, Bohol, Siargao and the Naga. So, this is a very close collaboration and conveys the sense of friendship,” Fluss said.
In the meantime, Israeli officials are also encouraging Filipinos to visit their country more often.
Among the token of friendship from the Israeli government that the country enjoys is the visa-free travel to their country for all Filipinos.
“The most important thing is that the Filipinos don't need visa, which means it's very easy to just buy your ticket and go to our country. Our relationship is more than 100 years, and I think the Philippines is the only Asian country that doesn’t need a visa to get to us,” Israel Ministry of Tourism in India and Philippines Director Sammy Yahia told PNA.
Currently, there are no direct flights from the Philippines to Israel due to “technical issues”.
“End of next year, we will have permission, they (airlines) will have the permission to fly. And we will have the direct flights for sure. It's a matter of time,” Yahia said.
When asked about the best time for Filipinos to visit Israel, Yahia said any day of the year would be the best time to fly there.
“Because we have a different climate. Israel's only a short country, is 500 kilometers from the south to the north, and you'll find another weather [for] each part,” he said.
“If you want to ski in the winter, you go up to the north; if you want to have fun in the beaches, you can come in the summer. But even during winter, you can have fun in the south like a last resort,” he added.
Since their government “is not looking at the past” especially the time of pandemic, Yahia disclosed that Israel observes no restrictions or health protocols related to Covid-19.
He said foreigners visiting their country are not required to have RT-PCR tests, to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19, or wear face masks. (PNA)