(JTA) — Twelve students at a religious seminary for women in Israel have tested positive for the coronavirus, in an outbreak that strikes at fears that the country’s residential learning programs could be a tinderbox for the disease.
Some 125 of 200 students in the Israeli program at Midreshet Lindenbaum in Jerusalem have gone into isolation, and all of the students in the Israeli program have been sent home and are taking classes on video conference, the Jerusalem Post reported.
One student was sent home due to a cough last week and, though she did not have a fever or other symptoms, was asked to take a coronavirus test, which was positive. In addition, an assistant at the seminary tested positive for COVID-19. Ten more students, all asymptomatic, tested positive after they were sent home.
The seminary also includes students from overseas, but they had not come into contact with women from the Israeli program since they were in their government-mandated 14-day isolation period after arriving in Israel for the start of the school year.
Israel expects about 16,000 yeshiva, seminary and graduate students to arrive from overseas this fall. They are required to go into isolation for two weeks. In addition, many yeshivas have put robust hygiene measures in place and arranged themselves into “pods” where students come into contact with only a limited number of people, so that any outbreaks are contained.
But their operation has been a point of tension as the country struggles to get its epidemic under control. The coronavirus czar appointed in July said he disagreed with the decision to let foreign students into the country but that it had been made before he took over. Meanwhile, a leading rabbi reportedly has instructed students to avoid coronavirus tests because positive tests could result in their yeshivas being closed.