Criticism voiced by Diaspora leaders, Olim activists against border closure

Chief Rabbi of South Africa: A total closure of State of Israel to world Jewry signals to Jewish communities that from Israel’s perspective they are second-class Jews.

 Diaspora Jews at Ben-Gurion Airport after making Aliyah to Israel. (photo credit: THE JEWISH AGENCY)
Diaspora Jews at Ben-Gurion Airport after making Aliyah to Israel.
(photo credit: THE JEWISH AGENCY)

Criticism against the new closure of Israel’s borders to foreign nationals is being voiced by Diaspora leaders and activists for immigrants in Israel, who argue that it sends a message to immigrants and Diaspora Jews that the government of Israel does not take them into account.

The cabinet decided on Saturday night to ban all foreign nationals from entering the country for two weeks due to the Omicron COVID-19 variant, with certain exemptions as it has done for much of 2021.

Vaccinated Israeli citizens will have to isolate for three days upon their return, and those unvaccinated will need to isolate for at least a week and receive a negative PCR test.

“The Jewish state is the home of all Jews, especially in times of crisis,” said Chief Rabbi of South Africa Warren Goldstein. “A total closure of the State of Israel to world Jewry signals to Jewish communities that from Israel’s perspective they are second-class Jews. The new variant doesn’t distinguish between Jews who have Israeli citizenship and other Jews.”

Goldstein, making a reference to the different entry policies for citizens and foreign nationals, said that variants could be prevented from entering the country through effective testing and quarantine policies, instead of entry bans.

South Africa’s Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein. (credit: Courtesy)South Africa’s Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein. (credit: Courtesy)

“Do not close the gates of the State of Israel to us,” said Goldstein. “This is a slippery slope that is likely to do more harm than good. I call on the prime minister and members of the coronavirus cabinet to think again about the consequences before making a decision.”

Former MK Dov Lipman, founder of the Yad L’Olim organization that assists immigrants, said Israel needs to take action to protect its citizens, but must take into consideration the people its new rules affect.

“Decisions are being made with zero clarity and with no care for those who are being banned from entry,” said Lipman in response to the ban. “I am at the Knesset today trying to get more clarity so people can understand the rules and to fight for a proper exceptions committee. There are real-time situations of humanitarian needs, and the government must establish a clear and transparent process for these requests.”

Former MK Michal Cotler-Wunsh, head of Nefesh B’Nefesh’s new Institute for Aliyah Policy and Strategy, was also critical of the impact the travel ban would have on immigrants and their families abroad.

“Parents of lone soldiers, bnot sherut [national service enlistees], those marking births/weddings/missing [their relatives], are not just tourists,” Cotler-Wunsh tweeted. “Children to aging parents are not just ‘tourists.’ A nation-state that encourages aliyah must create separate, holistic, clear and transparent policies for families of those who left all behind, subject to health requirements, vaccination, quarantine [and] testing.”