Photo Credit: Louis Fisher/Flash90
Students and volunteers engaged in the Masa project, October 29, 2012.

Prof. Ronni Gamzu, Israel’s Corona Czar, on Monday arranged for some 17,000 American university and yeshiva students to enter Israel, Maariv reported. The students will arrive at a gradual pace over a few months and upon arrival will immediately enter isolation in capsules of up to six individuals, in institutions which have been approved by the Health Ministry. So far, 31 out of 183 institutions that applied to participate in the project have been approved.

As previously reported in The Jewish Press, coronavirus-related budget cuts had Masa drastically trimming its budget, the axe falling on its Jewish studies programs. Previously, qualifying American students had received nearly $3,000 in grants, with as much as $7,800 allocated to British students. After an initial outcry, Masa did agree to match funding raised to replace the grants, explained Rabbi Reuven Taragin, dean of overseas students at Yeshivat HaKotel, but even that amount still left parents facing a shortfall that could have imperiled their child’s year of study and had potentially devastating financial repercussions for yeshivas and seminaries. (Orthodox Advocacy Leads To Masa Restoring Funding To Yeshivas And Seminaries)

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But on Sunday, we reported that the Corona Czar criticized the decision to allow 16,000 yeshiva students from the United States to enter Israel ahead of the high holidays. “We need to do something wise here to prevent another fire,” Gamzu said in an interview with News 12 on Saturday night. “It’s a decision that was made before I took office. I’m not yet completely certain what additional instructions we need to issue.” (Corona Czar Gamzu Against Letting In 16,000 US Yeshiva Students)

Gamzu reached an agreement on this issue with Jewish Agency Isaac Herzog, Head of Israel’s Population Authority Prof. Shlomo Mor Yosef, the Health Ministry’s Head of International Relations Dr. Ashi Shalmon, from the Ministry of Health and representatives of the Council for Higher Education.

The project involves about 2,000 university students; 12,000 yeshiva students, 5,000 participants in the Masa Journey which offers internship, study and volunteer opportunities in Israel, About 500 participants in the Na’aleh project for 10th grade high school students, and about 1,500 students who will attend private institutions in Israel.

In order to ensure that there will be no deviation in compliance with the Health Ministry’s guidelines in any of the participating institution, Prof. Gamzu on Sunday instructed the Ministry to maintain tight control over the project’s population, with regular supervision. Dedicated inspectors will be recruited to carry this out.

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