As Israel’s daily coronavirus cases continue to soar, the coronavirus cabinet met for over eight hours on Tuesday to discuss further restrictions to combat the growing spread of the coronavirus but the meeting ended without any decisions. Following the meeting, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said that “the decisions will be reached no later than tomorrow.” The cabinet is expected to reconvene on Wednesday to reach a final decision on further restrictions.
The key issue that led to the lack of decisions was that of closing shuls, especially on Yom Kippur, followed by the issue of the ongoing protests against Netanyahu. Interior Minister Aryeh Deri threatened to resign if shuls will be closed while protests are allowed to continue.
Although minyanim will be allowed to convene outdoor, the religious MKs said that forcing mispallelim to daven outside all day in the heat on Yom Kippur while fasting is not realistic.
“Why are there no discussions regarding protests and beaches?” Deri said at the meeting. “You are mentioning only mikvaot, batei knesset and the Arba Minim. I don’t understand why tefillos should be banned but not protests. A government that decides protests can be held but tefillos cannot is acting like a non-Jewish government.”
Not all Rabbanim agree with Deri. HaRav Dovid Yosef, member of the Moetzet Chachmei HaTorah of Shas, the son of Hagaon HaRav Ovadia Yosef, z’tl, called for the immediate closing of shuls, even on Yom Kippur, saying that tefillos should only be held outdoors.
הרב דוד יוסף, חבר מועצת חכמי התורה של ש״ס ובנו של הרב עובדיה יוסף: לסגור באופן מיידי את בתי הכנסת. גם ביום הכיפורים התפילה רק באוויר הפתוח או בבתים ביחידות pic.twitter.com/Erd2XBhO8P
— יאיר שרקי (@yaircherki) September 23, 2020
On the other hand, Rav Yosef’s brother, the Rishon L’Tzion HaRav Yitzchak Yosef, called for shuls to remain open on Yom Kippur with fully opened windows and small groups of mispallelim – all wearing masks and maintaining social distancing regulations.
Many Rabbanim, including the Rishon L’Tzion and Chief Rabbi Dovid Lau, have instructed men to refrain from the customary minhag of being toivel in a mikvah on erev Yom Kippur.
Netanyahu also slammed the double standard regarding protests, when hundreds or even thousands of Israelis gather with little regard to wearing masks or maintaining social distancing. Furthermore, as a “protest” organized at a beach in Tel Aviv in recent days attested, there is often a thin line between a legitimate protest and a party.
“I refrained from commenting on the issue for a long time but after hearing the experts claiming that gatherings are a huge danger to public health it’s my obligation to address it,” Netanyahu said at the coronavirus cabinet meeting, Channel 12 News reported.
“The entire public is required to comply with restrictions with only a group of protesters excluded from the regulations. You’re allowed to go to the Kotel only if you live within 1,000 meters of it, but people from all over the country can travel to Balfour Street [location of the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem].”
“Only capsules of 20 people are allowed at the Kosel but anything goes at the protests. This farce must stop. Everyone understands this, even on the left. We’re in a state of emergency. There must be one law for both tefillos and demonstrations and all gatherings wherever they are or the public will not adhere instructions and we will see the morbidity increase to terrible proportions.”
Chief Rabbi Dovid Lau also warned against closing shuls in a phone consultation with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein, and National Security Council head Meir Ben-Shabbat on Tuesday, saying that the public will not be able to abide by it.
“If there isn’t enforcement on other gatherings then you can’t close just the shuls, people won’t listen,” Rav Lau said.
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)