JERUSALEM – As Israelis prepare to celebrate the holiest day on the Jewish calendar under a fresh lockout, organizing prayer services is proving more to the mathematical braintaser than a spiritual practice.
Rabbis are arranged to divide worshipers into groups of 20 to 50, separated by dividers, determining the number and size of groups based on complex calculations involving local infection rates, and how many admissions and Square feet are their synonyms. Masks will be required, and many seats will remain vacant.
With the re-spread of coronaviruses, Israel will become one of the few places in the world to go into a second lockdown, which will take effect on the eve of the Jewish New Year Rosh Hashanah on Friday. The government has released a list of restrictions – as well as a plethora of exemptions that many criticize as a formula for confusion and inconsistency.
There was more disappointment than happiness in the atmosphere for the holidays.
“These are not the holidays we were expecting,” said Rabbi Kenneth Brander, president of Ohr Torah Stone, an Israeli-based Jewish education group with the rich around the world. “The fragility of life is upon us, but I see people rising to the occasion.”
The three-week national lockdown was timed to coincide with the holy days of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kipur and the festival of Sukhkot, in the hope of less economic loss as business slows down in any case around the holidays. The aim was also to stop large family meals that could become petri dishes for the virus.
For many Jews, the loss would be emotional rather than economical, by taking synagogues and rituals from them which they always relied on to tighten family and community bonds.
Israel successfully limited the spread of the virus in the spring, but recently its infection rate is one of the worst parts of the world. More than 300 new cases per 100,000 people have been confirmed in the country in the past week – more than double the rate in Spain, the toughest European country, and quadrupling the United States.
Schools were closed on Thursday, just two weeks after they reopened. From Friday, people will be required, in general, to live within 1,000 meters – approximately 1,100 yards – of the house.
But the movement’s limits are enforced with so many exceptions – to work, to exercise, to perform, to buy essential goods, and to fulfill various religious obligations – that many Israelis question the logic and motivation behind them.
The change in the policy of Virani continued on Thursday evening. Health officials warned that the relatively loose lockdown was unlikely to dramatically cut the infection rate, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying that “there can be no choice but to be more stringent with the rules.”
At the same time, a parliamentary committee argued for loosening the ban on movement, which doubles the radius from 500 meters to 1,000. The cabinet approved overnight changes between Thursday and Friday.
“All fights confuse people,” said 45-year-old Karin Azizian, a housewife from a village in central Israel, Imunim. “He has no faith in the government.”
Just before the government issued its directive this week, the Jerusalem Great Synagogue, where the Prime Minister and Presidents have prayed, announced that it was closing its doors on High Holy Days for the first time in its half-century history .
A letter to the congregations reads, “Our decision reflects our growing concern to protect every comrade and their families, at a time of great uncertainty and changing government guidelines.”
“I have tears in my eyes,” said Zalli Jaffe, president of the Great Synagogue. The synagogue was operated without interruption through all of Israel’s wars, he said of how, in 1991, he ran away from home for morning prayers when all looked clear after the Iraqi missile attack.
But the government’s policy was not very reassuring, he said, “is it based on science or politics or economics?”
Many non-ruling Jews, Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, visit the synagogue during the Day of Atonement and fasting. But the lockdown waiver has caused resentment among secular Israelis because many of them are seen as observant religiously – a result of pressure from religious parties in the governing coalition.
Jewish women would be allowed to go beyond 1,000 meters to take a dip in a ritual bath, but swimming pools would be closed. Supervisor Jews would be able to travel to Sukhkot to build a temporary shelter – to buy citron fruits and other plants as well as supplies needed to inspect the material. Unlike gatherings, cultural venues, museums, gyms and hotels will remain closed.
“Many secular Israelis argue deep-set and well that this lockdown is a ‘lockdown for the secular’,” Shonet Chen wrote in a column on Ynet.
One of the provisions people have questioned allows Israelis to fly to Greece and some other countries, but not to Elliot, Israel’s Red Sea resort.
The head of an Israeli hotel chain said he would rename the city to more Greek “iliatos” if it would help, as kitchen workers were forced to throw out the food they had already prepared for the holidays.
The public’s trust in the government’s decision came to an end during the Passover during spring, when Mr. Netanyahu and the country’s President Ryuwen Rivlin broke the rules by hosting family members from outside their home.
Mr. Rivlin apologized for that slip in an emotional, televised speech on Wednesday night, and said he was also atoning for the leadership’s failure to deal with the epidemic.
“You trusted us and we disappointed you,” he said. “I want to say to the Israeli government – its leaders, ministers and advisors: People’s trust is beyond value. We must do everything to restore personal, medical and economic trust for our fellow citizens.”
In an effort to allow more people to experience the holiday spirit, some Jewish organizations are working on creative solutions.
Tzohar Rabbinical Organization and Ohr Torah Stone have expanded the project “Shofar in the Park”, started several years ago, which brings the ritual of a ram’s horn into the public domain. Now they are also taking it inside residential buildings, where people will lockout.
In addition, Ohra Torah Stone has produced a short, online version of “Machzor” for Prayers for the Holidays, a book that allows for small, secure services, whether they are home to small communal settings of 20 people Be held inside or outside. . Thousands of copies have been downloaded for mass printing and distribution.
“Jewish law makes health and safety a priority,” Rabbi Brander said. “It gives us the opportunity to conduct maneuvers in times of challenges.”
Merritt Etteggi, 44, a Nizatan teacher from a small community near the southern end of Israel’s Mediterranean Sea, took two of her five sons to a beach before the new restrictions.
“It’s a suffocating feeling,” he said of the loom lockdown, “but there’s no alternative.”
A young couple, Guru Lavi, 24, and 23-year-old Orion Mazar, who live in different cities in central Israel, moved to Jerusalem for at least a day before spending the next three weeks apart from their families. Stuck in homes.
Mamila, an outdoor shopping mall near the Old City of Jerusalem, which is usually accompanied by foreign tourists. But exclusive gift stores and boutiques were almost deserted in the days before the start of the holidays.
Yet some Israelis were still buying holiday clothes. A popular clothing store chain was still advertising “back-to-school” offers.
“Unlike Passover, when everyone sat in their pajamas, this time people also want to dress up for their family to feel the festival,” said Shami Elemelekh, a manager at one of the chain’s stores.