Haredim at Ben Gurion airport (illustrative)
Haredim at Ben Gurion airport (illustrative)Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90

An attempt by about thirty American haredim from New York to gain permission to enter Israel for a wedding has seemingly backfired, for although the group managed to enter the country, the yeshivot which allegedly colluded in their attempt to do so will now be struck off the list of institutions whose students can be awarded visas.

Entrance to Israel for non-citizens is currently extremely limited, but student visas are still being issued, and the group managed to obtain the coveted documents via the Israeli consulate in Belgium.

According to Tzvi Gluck, CEO of the Amudim organization which initially tried to help the group obtain the visas, he was at first unaware of the deception.

Writing on Yeshiva World News, Gluck states, “A group representing themselves as yeshiva students came to Amudim with all the required legal documentation, so we could help them apply for the student visas. David Kushner, Ushy Lieber, and I spent countless hours with them, reviewing more than 20 documents for each of the 30 plus student applicants. After thinking that everything was in proper order, we submitted the applications to the Israel consulate on Monday, June 14th.”

It was only the next day, Gluck writes, that he realized that something was wrong.

“We received multiple frantic phone calls from some of the applicants. Additionally, the consulate advised us that they too were being besieged by many calls regarding the student visa status for the same school.”

Gluck then continues: “Here is the Real Story. A high-profile wedding scheduled to take place in Israel next week was the reason for these applicants to find a way to enter Israel. Realizing that current travel restrictions make it extremely difficult for most people to get into Israel, some unethical individuals managed to get a yeshiva, which is approved by the Ministry of the Interior, and used it as a front to obtain student visas. The paperwork included documents signed by the head of the yeshiva confirming that the applicants would all be learning in that school for a minimum of one year. This is a blatant lie.”

Other accounts, however, contradict Gluck’s version of events. According to both Yediot Aharonot and The Jerusalem Post, Gluck became suspicious of the group’s intentions before they submitted their applications, and contacted the Israeli consulate to inform them. It was only at that point did he realize that the group consisted of married men, not young students, and he then allegedly “attempted to prevent the visas from being presented to the group.” Ultimately, the group obtained the visas from a different consulate, and managed to reach Israel.

In its response to the incident, the Israeli Foreign Ministry stated that it was already aware of the events, and that “The Foreign Affairs Ministry, together with the Population and Immigration Authority, are investigating the circumstances.”