British students in Israel could be deported if they flout quarantine restrictions

Criticism of the decision to permit entry to foreign students was denounced by Health Minister Yuli Edelstein as 'antisemitic'


British students in Israel could be deported if they violate the country’s quarantine restrictions, Israel’s new coronavirus tsar said on Sunday.

Professor Ronni Gamzu, speaking in an interview with Army Radio, said that “steps” would be taken “against the institution and also perhaps towards the individual, possibly even deportation” if incoming students do not quarantine after their arrival in Israel.

Arrivals to Israel are required to quarantine for a period of 14 days, including within a ‘capsule’ of up to six people, under the supervision of their institution.

Mr Gamzu added that inspectors would ensure that foreign students are abiding by regulations.

The statement follows a controversial announcement last week by Interior Ministry Aryeh Deri that foreign students would be admitted into the country in time for the beginning of the academic years in September and October.

The decision could potentially allow some 16,000 students into Israel – many from the United States.

Mr Deri’s decision, which he stressed was taken in coordination with the Jewish Agency and the Foreign and Health ministries, covers foreign students planning to study at Israeli higher education institutions, yeshivot, seminaries, or on Masa, Na’ale, high school or pre-army programmes.

Mr Gamzu has been under pressure to reverse the decision. He stated on Saturday that he disagreed with it but that the matter was now closed: “The issue of students was decided before I started my role.”

He added that institutions that did not ensure students followed regulations would be closed.   

Among those criticising the decision to permit entry to foreign students are Avigdor Liberman, the Chairman of Yisrael Beiteinu, who authored a letter to Mr Gamzu on Friday requesting a review.

Danny Yatom, a former head of Israel’s foreign intelligence service Mossad, also lashed out, saying that now was “not the time” and worrying: “this will burden the testing system and endanger hundreds of thousands of Israelis.”

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein, however, pushed back in an interview on Israel television over the weekend.

Mr Edelstein said that critics were unjustly targeting yeshiva students, adding that the majority who would be eligible to enter would not be ultra-Orthodox and stating that criticism was “antisemitism”.  

“Tens of thousands come from Israel from dozens of associations, organisations, and other meetings and no one opens their mouths,” he continued.

Yeshivot have been a particular concern as social distancing restrictions and other regulations have strained limited study and accommodation space in a number of institutions, such as the Ponevezh Yeshiva in Bnei Brak.

As of Monday morning, Israel’s death toll had hit 536, with the total number of cases climbing precipitously to 73,000 – of which 2,500 are considered ‘active’.

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