Israel Eases Entry for Unvaccinated Kids of Foreign Yeshiva Students

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Haredim arriving at Ben-Gurion Airport this summer (illustrative).
Haredim arriving at Ben-Gurion Airport this summer. The subjects have no connection to the content of the article.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

After weeks of intense lobbying by ultra-Orthodox organizations, Israel will now permit foreign yeshiva students to bring their unvaccinated children into the country. 

In a statement released Wednesday, the groups spearheading the lobbying effort expressed “tremendous thanks to the Interior Ministry, Foreign Ministry and Health Ministry for granting approval for children of student visa holders, stuck abroad, to enter Israel.”  

The change creates an exception to the new restrictions that came into effect on November 1, when Israel reopened to fully vaccinated tourists and visitors.

Under those rules, no foreign children under the age of 12 are permitted to enter Israel unless they are able to obtain digital verification of recovery from COVID-19. That is available in only a small number of countries.

No exceptions are being made for family visits, even if a foreign child wishing to see a grandparent or parent in Israel is willing to complete a full quarantine. The only exception made for either adults or children is for the wedding or funeral of a first-degree relative.

Since late October, the organization Chaim V’Chessed has protested the new rules because it would prevent the families of yeshiva students studying in Israel from traveling freely in and out of the country. 

When the new policy was announced, the organization vowed to push the Interior Ministry vigorously to change the rule to allow these children in.

Chaim V’Chessed, which describes itself as a group dedicated to “easing the task of navigating life in Israel,” partnered in its lobbying efforts with Amudim, a similar advocacy organization, along with the Yeshiva and Seminar Coalition. 

According to the new rules, unvaccinated children under the age of 12 with a parent in Israel on a student visa can apply for a special entry permit. 

Those eligible must have their student visa in their passports and their “center of life” must be in Israel (i.e., they live there for most of the year), and the child must have Israeli health insurance. 

Families are instructed to apply online at the Foreign Ministry website and indicate that the exception is requested “for a child of parents who have valid visas.”

According to the new rules, in order to be eligible for the exception, the parents and older children in the child’s family must be fully vaccinated under Israel’s criteria. However, no documented proof is required of the vaccination status of the other family members.  

Haaretz has reported extensively on the ability of tourists to receive a document allowing entry to Israel and a Green Pass from the Health Ministry using an online “honor system.” This asks them to type in vaccination dates without showing any documentation of vaccination or recovery. 

Until this week, after tourists completed an online entry form that gave them an entry permit and Green Pass, they were sent a link to a second form titled “Upload proofs of vaccination or recovery on arrival in Israel.” 

That link was offered as a reminder, however, not a requirement and many travelers were seemingly unaware of its existence.

Following an update to the system, that link is no longer being sent to tourists together with their entry permit and Green Pass. They would need to be motivated to actively search for the form that allows them to submit proof of vaccination. That motivation would presumably be low once a tourist has their entry permit and Green Pass in hand.

The new entry form, updated this week, also now extends the ability to get a Green Pass to tourists who are already in the country. Tourists are able to type in their vaccine dates and immediately download their Green Pass under an honor system – with no documentation required.  

Asked for comment on the change in entry restrictions for student visa holders, a spokesperson for the Population and Immigration Authority referred all matters involving vaccines to the Health Ministry. 

A spokesperson from the Health Ministry said: “Foreign nationals who come to live in Israel for six months or more can enter Israel on the condition that they meet the Health Ministry’s vaccination policy standards. In cases where they have children under the age of vaccination, they are allowed to bring their children on the condition that they go into isolation upon arrival in Israel.”

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