Foreign students allowed to enter Israel in spite of virus restrictions

Council for Higher Education says schools will need to arrange quarantine for incoming students; studies likely to be a mix of in situ and online

Shoshanna Solomon is The Times of Israel's Startups and Business reporter

The Sackler Health and Sciences complex at Tel Aviv University. (screen capture: Google Street View)
The Sackler Health and Sciences complex at Tel Aviv University. (screen capture: Google Street View)

Israel said on Thursday that new international students will be allowed to enter the country to start their university studies in the 2020-21 academic year, despite the coronavirus pandemic having practically closed the nation’s borders.

In mid-March the government banned nearly all non-Israelis from entering the country. Since then, the Council for Higher Education in Israel has been working closely with senior officials in the Heath and Foreign ministries and the Population and Immigration Authority to resolve the issue, the Council said in a statement.

“Internationalization is one of the main strategic priorities for the higher education system in Israel and we are committed to integrating top international students in our universities and colleges,” said Prof. Yaffa Zilbershats, chairperson of the Planning and Budgeting Committee at the Council for Higher Education.

Although the coronavirus pandemic has hindered international mobility, she said, “international students will still be able to come to Israel.”

Prof. Yaffa Zilbershats (Courtesy)

All students will be required to complete a 14-day self-isolation period upon arrival in Israel under the supervision of their academic institution, in accordance with Health Ministry guidelines, the statement said.

Earlier this month the Trump administration backed down on an effort to keep foreign students out of the United States, a move that would have stopped international students from remaining in the US if they are taking only online classes. US universities had challenged the new policy, whereupon the White House retreated.

Israeli universities and colleges have made efforts to provide support during the pandemic for international students, many of whom went home as classes started online. Now the universities are focused on getting these students and new ones back, the statement said.

A group of universities are organizing flights for current and new PhD and post-doctoral fellows who were unable to travel to Israel due to the grounding of airlines.

A spokeswoman for the council said that it was not yet clear if classes at universities will be in situ or online, but the likelihood is that it will be a combination of the two.

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