Any foreign student who is learning in Israel and breaks the Health Ministry’s directives will be deported, newly appointed coronavirus czar Prof. Ronni Gamzu said Sunday morning in an interview with Army Radio.“The issue of the students was decided before I started my role,” Gamzu said. He explained that if a decision is made to have students learn in capsules, there will be inspectors to make sure they adhere to the rules. He said this applies to university students, as much as yeshiva and seminary students.“Any institution that disrespects the restrictions will be closed, and anybody who disrespects the restrictions will be deported,” Gamzu stressed.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 applies to foreign students planning to learn in academic institutions, yeshivas, seminaries or on Masa, Naale, high school or pre-army programs.The decision, he said, was made following professional discussions led by Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog, in conjunction with the Health and Foreign ministries.Gamzu told N12 on Saturday night that he disagrees with the decision to let them in for fear it could lead to an additional outbreak, but it appears he has no intention to undo it.Israel Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman has lashed out against the move.
On Friday, he wrote a letter to Gamzu asking him to review allowing the students into the country: “Recently, we have heard reports that the government will allow between 16,000 and 17,000 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.He also noted the double standard: “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.”Similarly, former head of the Mossad, Maj. Gen. (Res.) Danny Yatom, called for preventing the entry of the students. He said “this is not the time” and that “this will burden the testing system and endanger hundreds of thousands of Israelis. Politicians will have to be flexible in the face of Gamzu’s just demand.”But Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said in an interview with N12 over the weekend that attacking only the yeshiva students was “antisemitism for its own sake... Tens of thousands come from Israel from dozens of associations, organizations and other meetings and no one opens their mouths.”The yeshivas also pushed back against those trying to prevent the students from coming. They also said that they are already experiencing challenges with the new system.Because the capsule system has increased space demands for studying and housing, for example, yeshivas have experienced difficulties in accommodating all their students during the crisis.The renowned Ponevezh yeshiva in Bnei Brak was unable to accommodate its foreign students during the summer semester due to space considerations, and was not even able to provide space for all of its Israeli students.Although it has rented new campus space in Jerusalem and Petah Tikva for the coming Elul semester due to start on August 21 for its Israeli students, it currently does not have enough space for its foreign students, although the yeshiva is working on renting another campus site to do so.Other ultra-Orthodox yeshivas are experiencing similar difficulties.Some of the large religious-Zionist yeshivas are better able to accommodate their students due to large campus and dormitories, and have said that they do not foresee any problems in meeting the Health Ministry requirements for capsules and quarantine.