Israel imposes Purim curfew, but ‘forgets’ this about Jerusalem

Government decides on evening lockdown to prevent the spread of coronavirus, but “forgets” that the Purim holiday is celebrated a day later in Jerusalem.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

The government approved an evening curfew for three days during the Purim festival that begins Thursday, but forgot that in Jerusalem the holiday is also celebrated on Sunday, leaving a rather large loophole for those who want to hold parties and large gatherings, or ‘super-spreader’ events in the eyes of health observers.

On Tuesday, the government passed new regulations that imposed a daily curfew between 8:30 p.m. until 5:00 a.m. Thursday through Saturday in order to prevent the traditional big parties normally attended by hundreds on the festive holiday marked by the reading of the Book of Esther.

While Purim this year falls on Thursday night and Friday, rabbinical precept is that the holiday is celebrated a day later in walled cities, including Jerusalem. However, if Purim falls on the Sabbath it is delayed by a day, pushing it off until Sunday in Jerusalem, where many ultra-Orthodox communities are likely already preparing for mass gatherings, the report said.

The events are expected to continue into the night between Sunday and Monday, when no curfew was imposed.

It is expected that the extremist factions in the Mea Shearim neighborhood of Jerusalem that have previously resisted coronavirus health restrictions will take advantage of the oversight and hold large events as was done last year at the start of the pandemic, when Purim celebrations led to massive outbreaks of infections.

In Hasidic ultra-Orthodox communities, it is customary to hold a “tish,” where a rabbi sets a table for all members of the community to dine together, sing and hear sermons about the holiday. Most such events will take place in the afternoon and continue into the night after the expiration of the three day order.

“We are not interested in the guidelines, but it is clear that if there is restriction on movement, it will be much easier for us,” a prominent ultra-Orthodox activist told Ynet, because so many people in the community had been infected with the virus and recovered. “In serological tests it is very rare to find someone without antibodies – so there will be no infection here,” he said.

Police Superintendent Amnon Alkalay told the Cabinet meeting he expects major incidents and violations in Jerusalem despite the curfew and that transportation to Jerusalem should be completely blocked or minimized in the coming days to prevent thousands of additional ultra-Orthodox from gathering there.

On Wednesday, the Health Ministry reported 4,395 new infections in the past day, with 42,045 Israelis currently infected with the virus. There are 1,266 Israelis hospitalized with coronavirus, 795 of whom are listed in serious or critical condition. As of Tuesday, Channel 12 reported that 58 of those hospitalized are children under the age of 18.

Just under half of Israel’s 9.3 million citizens, 4.5 million, have received at least one shot of the American Pfizer vaccine, with a third of the country – 3.1 million – being fully vaccinated with both required shots.

Since the beginning of the pandemic 5,648 Israelis have died from the virus.