Concerns Over Call to Prayer

On Monday 23rd March the Chief Rabbinate in Israel called on the people to gather in synagogues across the country on Wednesday 25th for a day of fasting and prayer regarding the spread of the new coronavirus.

Yitzhak Yosef and David Lau asked Israelis to respond to that call while still complying with the Health Ministry’s social-distancing guidelines – which would mean limiting prayer groups to 10 people, all of whom were keeping two metres apart from one another.

Praying in a YeshivaStudying in a Yeshiva

But critics are questioning this kind of activity in the light of new data showing that a significant number of Israelis with COVID-19 contracted the disease at a synagogue. There are concerns that the Government is not being firm enough with ultra-Orthodox communities.

Israel`s coronavirus hot spots

New data has been published concerning the places that have produced the most infections. That data shows that 29 percent of infected people caught the virus while in a place of worship or a yeshiva, Places like restaurants and shops also produced significant numbers.

In one case it was reported that 17 members of a synagogue caught the virus after praying alongside a person who had it – suggesting that churches in the UK have followed a sensible course of action in closing their meetings.

Strict new measures

Israel’s government passed significant new restrictions in the early hours of Wednesday to reduce the rate at which the virus is spreading.

After a 6-hour meeting the Government decided:

  • People may only leave their home for a short time and need to stay within 100 metres of it.
  • Public transport will be significantly reduced and should only be used for specified reasons.

Valid reasons for leaving home will be limited to essentials, like food shopping and medical purposes.

Other reports add that anyone who breaks the new restrictions could pay a tough penalty, including a fine and time in prison. Up to now, restrictions on movement were recommendations and not legal requirements.

The reason for the increased restrictions is that, as of Wednesday, 2,035 Israelis have been diagnosed with Covid-19, five of whom have died and 37 are in a critical condition.