Liberman slams decision to let foreign yeshiva students into Israel

"We have heard reports that the government will allow about 16,000 US students ... to come to Israel ahead of the holidays, without prior screening for the coronavirus."

Avigdor Liberman (photo credit: REUTERS)
Avigdor Liberman
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Israel Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman is trying to stop thousands of haredi (ultra-Orthodox) yeshiva students from entering Israel in the fall.
According to The Jerusalem Post’s Hebrew sister paper, Maariv, Liberman sent a harshly-worded letter to the country’s new coronavirus commissioner, Prof. Ronni Gamzu, this past week complaining about the permits that have been granted to several thousand of these students.
“Recently, we have heard reports that the government will allow about 16,000 US students, who are not citizens of Israel, to come to Israel ahead of the holidays, without prior screening for the coronavirus,” Liberman wrote in his letter, according to Maariv.
On Saturday night, in a conversation with N12’s Dana Weiss, Gamzu responded that he, too, is opposed to letting the students in.
“We need to prevent an additional outbreak,” he said.
Liberman added in his letter, moreover, that he understands that as many as 30,000 Israeli hassidim will be permitted to travel to Uman for Rosh Hashanah. Uman is home to the burial place of Rabbi Nachman, and it is traditional for Breslov hassidim to visit there on the holiday.
“While couples are not allowed to get married in events with more than 20 participants, it makes no sense to allow 16,000 students to enter the country or allow 30,000 people to participate in a mass event, when it is clear to any reasonable person that this event will take place without supervision and without observance of the [Health Ministry’s] rules,” Liberman said.
Last week, Interior Minister Arye Deri announced in a statement that his ministry would approve the entry into Israel of foreign students who were planning to begin their studies in Israel this coming October. The decision, he said, was made following professional discussions led by Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog, in conjunction with the Health and Foreign ministries.
The statement indicated that approvals would only be made for foreign students who could meet the Health Ministry’s isolation requirements.
The approval applies to foreign students in academic institutions, yeshivas, seminaries, or on Masa, Naale, high school or pre-army program (mechina) programs.
The Ukrainian government has agreed to let in only around 5,000 people for the annual Rosh Hashanah pilgrimage to Uman, Ukrainian Chief Rabbi Yaakov Dov Bleich told JTA. The most recent report indicated that this number could rise to as much as 8,000 people, who would be required to wear masks in crowded spaces and refrain from gathering in groups of 30 or more people.
In the past, approximately 30,000 people would travel to the Ukrainian city every Rosh Hashanah.
Liberman responded to Gamzu’s comment to Weiss on his Facebook page and addressed the public: “Listen to Prof. Gamzo: 16,000 yeshiva students from abroad must not be allowed to enter Israel... Bringing them into the country is taking an unnecessary risk that will increase infection. Decisions must not be made due to political considerations and the surrender of [Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu] Bibi and [Alternative Prime Minister Benny] Gantz to the ultra-Orthodox parties.”