Coronavirus Cabinet: ‘Must Find Way to Open Skies for All’

The empty departure hall at Ben Gurion Airport in April. (Yossi Zamir/ Flash90)

The Knesset’s Coronavirus Cabinet met Tuesday morning, following an exceptional permit granted to students to fly to Israel, about which committee chairman Yifat Shasha Bitton said: “There must be one law for everyone. If we know how to accommodate a specific group, we have to do so for everyone. If 16,000 students are allowed into Israel, we have to find the way for everyone to be able to come in as well…. This is not just about the Ben Gurion airport and tourists, but also whole circles of businessmen and breadwinners who must see to their livelihoods. We are here to see how we can advance this.”

What remains unclear is the date that these students will be allowed to travel to Israel and arrive at yeshivos approved by the Health Ministry. From committee deliberations it seemed that permitted dates will be spread out over the course of the year, and on condition that the arriving students fulfill the mandatory quarantine period and remain within a capsule of six talmidim.

In addressing the uproar that followed permission to yeshivah students to come to Israel, Interior Minister Rabbi Aryeh Deri said: “Israel is the national home of all Jews of the world. A mother does not tell her children that she doesn’t have the strength to welcome them home. We continue to welcome everyone. These students have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to come to Israel. This is the best we way we have of fighting assimilation.”

Other suggested solutions were raised at the meeting, such as MK Ayelet Shaked’s call for “a laboratory at Ben Gurion airport that can check arriving passengers with a 3-hour wait period, and if they test positive, they enter quarantine at their own expense.”

A partial solution, already in effect, was mentioned by Doctor Asher Shalmon, director of the International Relations Division in the Health Ministry: “We’ve set up a meeting place for businessmen at the Ben Gurion airport, but of course this is not the ideal solution.”

Others criticized current policies as unclear. MK Andrey Kozhinov (Yesh Atid) noted that even the mandatory test a citizen must take 72 hours before flying out of Israel does not clearly address the problem, “because who knows with whom he was in contact between getting checked and boarding the plane?”

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