Day of Judgment: Israel hits record high in number of serious cases

Despite most prayers held outdoors during the Yom Kippur fast day, coronavirus numbers continue to soar to new highs.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

The number of Israelis hospitalized in serious condition hit a new high Tuesday, the day after the country shut down to mark Yom Kippur, sometimes known as the “Day of Judgment” in which Jews atone for their sins.

Health Ministry statistics released Tuesday morning showed 1,527 Israelis are now hospitalized with coronavirus, 772 of them listed in serious condition and 209 on ventilators. The death toll reached 1,507, with 562 deaths so far in September and fears that those numbers could soar in the coming months.

With most of Israel shut down for Yom Kippur, the number of tests performed on Monday was very low, but the results indicated the rate of positive coronavirus tests has risen gradually in recent days to a national average of more than 14%. That means one in seven tests is positive, with the highest infection rates in cities with predominantly ultra-orthodox Jewish populations.

Those cities include Beitar Illit with an alarming 32.5% of the tests – one in three – being positive, Elad with 31.3%, Bnei Brak 27.9% and in Modi’in Illit 26.4%. Health Ministry data shows the infection rate in ultra-Orthodox localities is significantly higher than the national average.

Millions of Israelis traditionally pack synagogues each year for Yom Kippur prayers, and although health regulations allowed indoor prayers for very small groups, most synagogues in Israel followed health guidelines and held services outdoors Monday with worshippers wearing masks and seated in groups of 20 with chairs spaced for social distancing.

With temperatures in much of the country hitting 95 degrees Fahrenheit, services in many locations began just before sunrise and finished mid-morning, allowing people to rest at home during the peak heat.

Most services resumed around 5:00 p.m. when temperatures had already dropped significantly, ending with the traditional blast of the shofar (ram’s horn) at sunset when worshippers returned home to end a day of fasting.

During the day Israel’s Magen David Adom (MDA) national ambulance conducted 1,595 coronavirus tests in the Arab sector and responded to 2,360 emergency calls nationwide, of which 1,818 included an ambulance trip to a hospital for further treatment. MDA reported that 305 people fainted or suffered dehydration during the fast, an increase of 15% compared to 2019.

Although traffic is reduced to a trickle on Yom Kippur, one pedestrian was killed in an accident and 17 people were reported injured. MDA teams also rushed 136 women in labor to hospitals, two of whom gave birth on the way.