Netanyahu accedes to requests from rabbis, reopens synagogues

The government agreed to allow synagogues to restart, particularly given the easing in other areas, such as recreation and dining.

By World Israel News Staff

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a consultation with newly installed Health Minister Yuli Edelstein, Interior Minister Aryeh Deri and others on Tuesday evening and decided to reopen houses of worship in Israel

Synagogues will have to follow a number of health guidelines: No more than 50 people in the building, the maintaining of two meters’ distance between worshipers, the wearing of masks and the appointment of a corona official for the house of prayer.

There are reports that the corona official will check temperatures of parishioners. On the Jewish Sabbath, when it is forbidden to use electronic devices, an automated digital infrared thermometer would be used.

The government was likely influenced to act by calls from the religious population to reopen synagogues, particularly as beaches and restaurants were being allowed to reopen.

The latest call came from Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau earlier Tuesday. He wrote to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, calling on him to permit synagogues to open as part of the general easing of the lockdown following the coronavirus crisis.

“Public prayer occupies an important place in Jewish life,” Lau said, noting that when the country was under a Health Ministry-mandated quarantine, he issued religious rulings that complied with the health orders to close synagogues and hold prayers only outdoors in small groups and with social distancing.

“The [religious] public, with full responsibility, complied and followed these guidelines. A return to the routine of shopping centers, restaurants and more with the lack of response to the synagogues causes many to wonder,” Lau wrote.

The rabbi reminded Netanyahu of the central role of the synagogue in Jewish life as the place where people connect with God. He also noted the painful reactions from the faithful as they watched the government ease restrictions on places of business, but not houses of prayer.

“It is imperative to issue clear instructions on this issue as soon as possible to bring the worshipers back to the synagogues,” Lau said.

Also participating at Tuesday night’s meeting was National Security Council head Meir Ben-Shabbat and other officials.