Return to ancient times: Israelis make pilgrimage to Jerusalem on foot to avoid corona checkpoints

Israeli police weren’t successful at stopping holiday parties in Tel Aviv and Haifa. They hope for better luck in Jerusalem, which celebrates the holiday on Sunday.

By David Isaac, World Israel News

It’s a return to ancient times as religious Jews visited Jerusalem on foot for the holiday of Purim on Sunday. They were avoiding checkpoints set up to stop them.

Purim isn’t one of the Three Pilgrimage Festivals when Jews were obliged to go up to Jerusalem (Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot), but this year it’s Purim that resembles most what those holidays might have looked like in ancient times.

Purim was celebrated on Friday for most people, but due to a religious rule it is celebrated a day later in walled cities. As the Sabbath came between, it was pushed off still one day more until Sunday.

Showing a gap in its religious knowledge, Israel’s government declared a lockdown from Thursday to Saturday during the religious holiday to prevent gatherings that could spread the coronavirus, conspicuously forgetting about the rule about walled cities.

This left a large loophole for people to celebrate the holiday without running afoul of the authorities. In an attempt to recover after the fact, the government set up roadblocks around Jerusalem on Sunday, effectively turning it into a walled city of old and creating snarling traffic.

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Website N12 reports that after the site of hundreds of parties in Tel Aviv and Haifa in disregard of the corona restrictions, police were determined to stop the same from happening in Jerusalem. “In order to prevent worshipers from reaching the synagogues and mass holiday events, public transportation to and from the city was stopped and checkpoints were set up at all entrances and exits,” N12 reported.

This didn’t stop even more determined citizens from getting through. N12 says videos show “dozens of ultra-Orthodox marching on foot to the capital in an attempt to overcome the barriers and restrict traffic.”

“Meanwhile, spontaneous street parties were held in the city center and in the Mahane Yehuda market. Apart from the residents of the city, families with children from all over the country were also seen,” the site reported.