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‘You have my word’: Bennett pledges to US Jewry that he’ll reopen borders ASAP

In letter to Jewish Federations of North America, PM recognizes pain caused by decision to shutter borders to foreigners, but says his primary responsibility is citizens’ health

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US correspondent based in New York

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett speaks to American Jewish leaders in New York City on Sept. 27, 2021. (Courtesy of the Jewish Federations of North America/Sara Naomi Lewkowicz)
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett speaks to American Jewish leaders in New York City on Sept. 27, 2021. (Courtesy of the Jewish Federations of North America/Sara Naomi Lewkowicz)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett pledged Thursday that Israel will reopen its borders to foreigners “as soon as possible,” in a letter to leaders of North American Jewry.

“We are well aware of the pain being caused, and you have my word that we will do all we can to help Jews around the world visit Israel again as soon as possible,” Bennett wrote in a letter to executives of the Jewish Federations of North America.

Following the emergence of the Omicron COVID-19 variant late last month, Bennett’s government made the quick decision to shutter Israel’s borders to all foreigners as health officials worked to understand the ramifications of the new strain. The order was for two weeks and is set to expire on Saturday night, but ministers will be huddling Thursday night to decide whether to extend it further.

Explaining the far-reaching decision to North American Jewry, Bennett said that his “primary responsibility is to protect the citizens of the Jewish state,” arguing that the risks of allowing visitors into the country outweighed the benefits for foreigners.

“We did not take this decision lightly, and we are acutely aware of the severe hardship and disruption it is causing people around the world, particularly members of the Jewish community,” he wrote.

“We are also very conscious of the thousands of individuals who had been or are planning family visits, bar mitzvahs, weddings and more, and for whom the decision was a serious blow,” Bennett added.

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