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2,000 Israeli national service women to return from overseas amid virus outbreak

Purim celebrations at Oakland Hebrew Day School on Tuesday included a surprise, un-festive addition: farewells to two young Israeli women whose work in the Northern California school was being cut short by the global coronavirus pandemic.

The women were assigned to work at the school as part of their national service, an alternative to Israeli army service chosen by many Orthodox girls.

They were ordered to return to Israel immediately, along with 2,000 other participants in the program run by Israel’s National Civic Service Authority. They were due to depart Wednesday night and it’s unclear when they will be allowed to return — if at all.

The recall came as the Israeli government tightened restrictions aimed at curbing the coronavirus epidemic there. On Monday, the country announced that anyone entering from abroad would have to undergo a 14-day quarantine in their homes, or in hotels in the case of international visitors.

As of this, about 40,000 Israelis were quarantined, and that number is rising as more Israelis make their way home. The Ministry of Health announced on Tuesday that nearly 250,000 Israelis have entered the country in the past two weeks.

Approximately 2,000 Israelis are serving abroad through the Jewish Agency for Israel, including high school graduates taking a gap year before beginning their army service and young adults who have recently concluded their military service. They are placed in synagogues, schools and college Hillels around the world — with about 400 currently in the United States.

MOST JEWISH AGENCY EMISSARIES REMAINING IN PLACE

On Tuesday night, Jewish Agency CEO Isaac Herzog met with hundreds of emissaries via videoconference to offer support and answer their questions.

Header: People wearing face masks at the Ben Gurion International Airport on March 10, 2020. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)