Israel to grant entry to foreign participants in educational programs

Interior and health ministries agree to ease virus ban on non-nationals; move could enable thousands to arrive for study in yeshivas and educational trips

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men study in small groups at the Imrei Emes yeshiva of the Gur (Hasidic dynasty) in the city of Bnei Brak, June 16, 2020. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)
illustrative: Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men study in small groups at the Imrei Emes yeshiva of the Gur (Hasidic dynasty) in the city of Bnei Brak, June 16, 2020. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein have agreed to enable foreign students attending various programs to enter the country despite an ongoing ban against non-nationals due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Those who arrive will still need to observe a mandatory 14-day quarantine, according to the Behadrei Haredim website, which caters to the ultra-Orthodox community.

Deri, of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, and Edelstein, of Likud, agreed to open the borders for students at men’s yeshivas and women’s seminaries, those participating in the Masa program heritage trips, high school exchange students on the Naale program, and other long-term high school study programs.

Easing the restriction could enable thousands of yeshiva students and others to start the coming year of study.

Those who arrive will be required to quarantine in groups of no more than six, the report said, with each institution’s director having sole responsibility to ensure that isolation rules are maintained.

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri in the Knesset on March 3, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“We are making great efforts to maintain the routine under the limits of the coronavirus, and any decision that is made is made after many deliberations, out of a serious desire to allow life to continue while adhering to the strict guidelines of the Health Ministry,” Deri said in a statement reported by the website.

“It is important for us to be very careful to prevent the spread of the virus, along with a desire to allow a normal life,” Deri said.

During an initial wave of the virus earlier this year visitors from abroad were identified as one of the main sources spreading the virus, prompting Israel in March to ban entry to non-nationals unless they obtain special permission from the Population Immigration and Border Authority. Returning Israelis are required to self-quarantine for 14 days.

Earlier this week the Israel Airports Authority announced that the entry ban was to be extended until the beginning of September.

Most school programs begin in September and yeshiva studies for the coming year will begin around the last week of August.

Last month the Calcalist business daily reported that the cancellation of trips for Jewish youths and young adults due to the coronavirus crisis is set to cost the Israeli economy about $200 million.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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