Israel Is Expected To Grant Entry Permission For Foreign Students; Are Some Institutions Insisting On Students Flying El Al?

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Chaim V’Chessed reports that Israeli Interior Minister Aryeh Deri and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein announced that foreign students will receive permission to enter the country for the upcoming school year.

Students will need to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival and individual schools will work out those logistics. Students should contact their schools for more information.

It’s important to note that nothing is final until the students have actually entered Israel. In June Israel voided the entry permission of single students that received permission to enter but had not yet boarded a flight.

Earlier this week I shared my advice on which airline students should use for maximum flexibility, given that things can rapidly change in the current situation.

Some schools are apparently requiring their students to fly on pricey El Al charter flights that have yet to be announced.

I’m not sure if that’s out of patriotism, a kick back from the airline/travel agent, or being the easiest logistically, but that seems highly unfair.

Airlines like Air Canada and El Al have been bad actors during this pandemic. They have refused to provide refunds on flights that they cancelled, which is in violation of US law.

Some people have won refunds by disputing the charge on their credit card or filing a DOT complaint, but El Al is still holding onto most people’s money. There is now a class action against El Al demanding refunds.

Back in March, El Al abruptly cancelled their flights, leaving students with an open ticket scrambling to buy other tickets. El Al then created charter flights to get students back to the US, but they refused to honor the open tickets, students had to spend big money on new charter tickets.

Schools claim that only El Al offers 2 free bags and open tickets, so its to the students advantage to use them. That disregards the fact that all Delta and United tickets are effectively open as they have free changes if booked by 7/31. It also ignores that last year’s students got stuck with worthless open ended tickets. Finally, the cost to add an additional checked bag is much less than the extra cost that is sure to be added onto the cost of a pricey El Al charter.

If there aren’t enough commercial seats available, there are other options, such as using Delta and United charter operations.

Forcing students to buy tickets from an airline that’s currently not operating, with no clear signs they will resume normal operations soon, and has not made last year’s students whole, is morally questionable.

Will schools take on the financial responsibility if El Al sells charter flights with open ended return tickets and then cancels the flight or can’t fulfill the return flight? What happens if Israel retracts permission for students to fly to Israel? Even if the airline agrees to provide a full refund, will the travel agent provide a full refund? Some readers have been hit with travel agent charges of up to $500 on cancelled group and charter flights. These details need to be worked out in advance.

My take?

There’s no reason that schools can’t give a specific date that students need to arrive in order to quarantine together.

Schools have a choice to make. They either need to take financial responsibility for tickets they are forcing parents to buy, or give parents the freedom to book tickets they feel comfortable with.

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53 Comments On "Israel Is Expected To Grant Entry Permission For Foreign Students; Are Some Institutions Insisting On Students Flying El Al?"

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no body cares for ELal anymore…

Why wont they let married students in now?

Is this only for students arrive for Rosh Chodesh Elul? what if a student wants to fly now or mid sep?


I believe United is only offering free changes on flights scheduled for 2020. So by making a 2021 return it would not be free to change.


Dan, I agree with you regarding ElAl. I’ve heard the patriotism “riddle”, which makes as little sense to me as a far-removed Jew telling me he’s “celebrating” his Jewish heritage by purchasing a jar of gefilte fish before Pesach. There are plenty of ways of supporting and being patriotic to Israel. Paying an inflated rate for a an underwhelming airline experience which doesn’t love you as a frum Jew in return isn’t what I have in mind.


whats your gut feeling as to which specific one reason some schools are demanding ELAL only?


The travel agents have better arrangement with them for group flights.

U need to b smart

Because several consolidators and agents purchased tons of seats on El Al before Covid. They will not be getting any money back anytime soon, so they are stuck with these seats, and they are trying to move them.


My yeshiva used a travel agent which also prided themselves as ‘proudly’ using the choice of ElAl for their travel offerings. Yea… Yea… we got the 2 free bags, the open ended ticket–and it was a bundle $$$. Also, Polaris, First, or Business is irrelevant for yeshiva students on a group flight. As a different person today, I wouldn’t consider that yeshiva for my own children because of such a huge element of Zionism before Yiddishkeit was the model. I sense ElAl is chosen from heavily Zionistic yeshivas for that reason.


I knew an Israeli on an official position in the US, and very surprisingly, the Israeli government uses American/European airlines for their own employees travel. They use whoever offers the best price.

schools are are crazy

this whole thing is insane the sems are driving everyone crazy for money and purchasing tickets when people dont have the money or they are hesitant to put 25000 when it may not even happen its alla farce to keep the money


Is it customary for schools to mandate that students participate in specific transportation arrangements, or is this a COVID-19 thing?

Also, what is the airline’s responsibility in the event the airline is willing to fly but the students are prohibited from entering the country? Would other airlines refund the fare?


Covid thing. There were group flights before (often met at the airport etc.) , but there was no obligation to take them


Generally the schools arrange a group flight so that all the students arrive at the same time and can be oriented together. The school will usually arrange transportation from the airport to the school. Most schools strongly encourage the group flights but do not mandate in a regular year.


Since when is it mandatory to take the “group flight” to Israel? When I went to Yeshiva not everyone flew on the group flight, it was a recommendation so that everyone could bond before beginning the year, but was not required. Many people flew British, Turkish, and United because of price and arrived same day or earlier.


It’s mandatory this year only due to the quarantine restrictions. If you have students coming in on 7 different flights on different days makes it much more difficult to keep the 14 day quarantine, they might need to keep students in quarantine for 3 weeks to be in compliance.
For that same reason they are using El-Al so they can charter a flight and guarantee 100+ seats on a plane.


Not every student comes from the New York metro area. Your logic is correct, but still flawed in that students from other parts of the planet will not fly on the “group” flights. There will still be 3 weeks quarantines.


I think they are making even people who don’t live in the New York area connect in New York and take the group flight. It’s mamish nuts.


Hi to All & thanks for Dan

As I see the fact that these Travel Agents are trying to get the hand over easy money & making charters with ELAL as they did as called an Emergency when schools closed mid March.

People ran to grab those 1/Ways TLV-NYC for $1600 in March when those Travel Agents were so-pose to help out these schools & students, when different smaller agents were telling the truth that their’s nothing to rush & they will find a flight for a decent price.

In my opinion for now people shouldn’t get fooled & do NOT pay prices which does not make any sense.



Agree. I’d like to add that at this point, the schools are more desperate to open then the parents. If parents put their foot down, the schools will have to be more flexible.


I agree with this. If a parent said, “I’m sorry but my child is booked on another flight that cost a fraction of the price,” what is the school going to say- “Well, then I’m sorry your child can’t attend our school”?! Of course not, the schools need the parents way more right now, as unfortunately I’m sure there will be plenty of people who don’t send their kids now even if it’s technically allowed. No way a school will do this, they will of course still accept anyone who wants to come.


Will flights need to be direct?


We are back to the good old days where the schools and fixers made money off the flights.


The schools do not make a penny off the flights, it’s controlled by the travel agency. I knew more than the travel agent and pretty much told him which Air Canada flight to book for my son after the initial return flight got cancelled, since he didn’t have a clue. Air Canada was worthless and in the end he flew United since Canada banned transit flights to the US. The yeshivas are not terribly sophisticated and let the travel agency so everything l.


It might be part of the government bailout plan, or at least the government trying to help ElAl

Ny metro

School get a kick back from agent
Or agent related to school staff
Shame !
Isn’t 20k a year enough ?


so stop the insanity of making things mandatory when they are not. We spend so much! whats wrong with them staying local or working part time. Same thing with simchas and other over spending activities


This is just false. Most of these agents have no relationship to the schools or receive any sort of kickback from the yeshivas. The agents might have a relationship with ElAl but that’s because no other airline offers the ability to book multiple large groups in a short amount of time.
And in what world is $20k for a year of school with room and board a lot? How much do you think it should cost to feed and house an 18 year old and pay the teachers and have trips?


Sure is.
Many yesivos and have room and board in the US and don’t cost that much

U need to b smart

Tuition at most Seminaries is closer to 25k right now. Throw in a plane ticket, spending money, clothes, and other necessities and the entire experience is over 30k. Yes, there are scholarships available.
But this is THE year. This is the year when parents and students will ask themselves ” Is this really worth it?”

Is it worth it to jump through so many hoops, and spend so much money to send my child halfway around the world where a pandemic is spiking?

Is it worth it knowing that my child will definitely be quarantined for at least 2 weeks and probably for a lot longer throughout the year due to students, teachers, staff members testing positive?

Is it worth it knowing that all outings will be limited in length and scope, and that there may be the possibility of being shut in for many Shabbosim and Yomim Tovim?

Is it worth it knowing that if any of the Rabbeim/teachers or their family members test positive, they will need to give their lessons to the students via ZOOM or phone line?

In past years, girls were terrified to NOT go to seminary because it would be bad for shidduchim. I don’t think that will happen this year.

Please don’t misconstrue what I’m getting at. The seminary experience is worthwhile and valuable for most girls – but the pressure they face to get in, the expense involved for parents(especially those whose livelihood has been affected by Covid), and the unknown and dangerous circumstances this year puts a giant question mark on it.


Well said


Not true. Unless you have proof, you’re probably better off not saying something like that.

Plan-it Israel

@dan don’t you realize that part of negotiating in Knesset it makes perfectly sense that Deri and other ministers are trying to save their airline. I actually do think it’s fair if that’s the case. I’ll let you in but make sure you use my airline.


This isn’t a government issue as the post says. But if it were- no, it is not reasonable to say that- if said local airline is charging many times more for the same flight. You can’t force people coming in to the country to essentially give charity to an airline as a condition of entry. An airline is not a charity case- consumers shouldn’t be bailing them out by force, that is the government’s job. (And even government bailouts should come with important conditions).


That would actually make Israel in trouble for antitrust violation


I already purchased a delta flight for my daughter going to seminary for half the price of the group flight, arriving the same day! I refuse to pay double.


dont give in to this collusion
parents stay strong and together and schools might relent!

Fay bogurt

Fyi ..disclaimer…Adam above is a travel agent .

Shana bet

My daughters seminary says that they’re waiting for the regulations but they’re looking at el al because of open tickets and 2nd bag option. I think they’re also looking at United though but we have to see if Israel will accept students for quarantining together if arriving on the same day but different flights.

My daughter is only going for 1/2 a year and I’m concerned about her returning in January because there likely won’t be group flights then!

Either way, Dan, from your extensive experience this past year and before, in the event that something happens and I need a refund, am I better off using chase points or paying for the flight with a credit card?

P.S. my daughter was one of the lucky ones to stay until June last year and she made it back on one of the el al flights that opened up for a week or two!


Looking at Elal for “open tickets and 2nd bag option” is ludicrous. Like Dan said both Delta and United are effectively open ended and the few bucks it’ll cost you for a 2nd bag with them will still be way cheaper than the overpriced Elal charters. Not one single parent sending a child to Israel should stand for this! Make your own choice, it’s a free country (supposedly!).

Aron Rayman

I just want to let everyone know, I just spoke to a seminary principal and she told us the plan with seminary year is that everyone will be locked in the seminary all year long unless things change, that means no going out for shabbat or seudas or geula or kosel, unless the seminary wants to arrange a trip for everyone to go out


My son is going to a small yeshiva – too small to warrant a group flight, and they did exactly what Dan suggested – they e-mailed the parents and told us that the boys need to arrive within a 5 hour window on a specific date, and suggested several flights that would get them there in that window. Foolishly, I chose ELAL originally, and thankfully was able to rebook him on Delta.

Regardless, I am still not believing he’s going until he’s arrived in his dorm to start the year.


Letter just came out from Darchei Bina as a response to this Dansdeals post.
Dear Parents and Students,

We are aware that many of you have a lot of questions about what comes next. The rules are literally changing by the day if not the minute. As we try to process all this, we want to clarify and not confuse. Some parents reached out to us about the flights to Israel. As we said previously, please don’t book a flight. The start date is not yet final. As the rules for quarantine become more apparent, we are trying to analyze the best way to keep everyone happy and sane in a 2-week quarantine. The rules right now require a 6-person unit within the dorm. We currently are securing new apartments to make sure that we can fully accommodate everyone. We are also thinking about how Yom Tov will work this year. As you can see, there is a lot to process on our end before the girls arrive.

There has been a lot of talk about why we have a group flight. There was a Dansdeals post yesterday that made everyone wonder why the Yeshivas and seminaries use El Al. I feel a need to address this. The goal of this blog is to help people save money and use credit card points. Who doesn’t love a deal? El Al has a weaker points program and that makes it a constant target of Dansdeals. But there are many considerations here. We have no allegiance to El Al. We don’t make any money on your ticket, regardless of whether you pay $1800 for a ticket or $800. We would prefer that you pay less for your flight! Dansdeals is incorrect when stating that students had useless tickets. Any student that did not panic and leave on the infamous charter flight was able to rebook for free on El Al at a later date. Even those students that stayed until June when El Al officially had no flights were able to fly home on El Al. This month El Al has been assigning anyone with an El Al confirmed ticket to United. My daughter and her family flew into the US yesterday for a wedding with United, but they used their El Al ticket. 

We had seats for Darchei Binah students on United two weeks ago, but the travel agent did not want our students to commit to a non-refundable ticket. At the time we did not know how the girls were getting into the country. I could not ask you to purchase such a ticket. That ticket is no longer available at the cheaper price (one way is over $1400!) We are waiting to see if El Al will publish its fares for the end of August and then we will compare the group flight price versus booking each ticket individually. Group flights come with an open return and an extra bag, but they are usually more expensive. We will do the math and get back to you. We need everyone to come into Israel at the same time so we can start quarantine together. We should be able to accommodate various cities like Chicago and LA to get to the same flight. To do this we need you to use Takeoff Travel. Darchei Binah has used Takeoff Travel for 25 years, and they are honest people. They have taken a financial beating during this pandemic and they are going to make a minimal fee on your ticket. They will not be accepting credit cards. Why not? Because if anyone decides to cancel participation on a non-refundable ticket and reverses the credit card charges, the travel agent will be responsible for the cost of the ticket. We are also open to changing the starting date if it involves a less expensive plane ticket.

We are expecting news of more flights to be released in the coming days.

Thanks again for your patience. May we all be zoche to be in Eretz Yisroel by this Tisha B’Av for a Yom Tov.

Sincerely yours,

Rabbi Shimon Kurland


There is now a meeting underway between the Israeli Health Ministry and representatives of the Yeshivas to establish final quarantine guidelines etc. DAVEN!



I really need your help regarding the TAP business class deal to Israel that you posted a few months ago, and which I purchased. My flight is scheduled for next Monday. I have an Israeli passport and still want to go, but TAP cancelled the connecting flight to TLV. They never notified me, but I noticed it when looking at my Priceline account. They do still have a code share flight from Lisbon with El AL. But no one at Priceline can ever reach TAP. And I can’t either. Do you have any suggestions of what I should do? Ideally, I would like them to reschedule and still go, but at the very least, I should get a refund since THEY cancelled the connecting flight. I would really appreciate your suggestion of who and what number I should call. Thanks!!