The health minister on Thursday said he "proudly" allowed for synagogues to stay open during upcoming lockdown, which falls on the Jewish High Holiday.
Israel last week voted to impose a three-week lockdown in order to curb the spread of coronavirus. The decision has sparked widespread fury among secular Israelis, who are irate over the ban on swimming in the sea even as ritual baths for the religious public are permitted.
Yuli Edelstein held a press conference ahead of the start of the lockdown on Friday, where he said he is "inundated" with questions as to why synagogues were allowed to remain open.
"I have news for you, the lockdown falls on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, days when not only the ultra-Orthodox or religious public comes to the synagogues," he said.
"Given this fact, we proudly approved Jewish prayers, with all the necessary restrictions and purple badge requirements, so that this year the Jewish citizens of Israel - if they choose to do so - can hear the sound of the shofar."
However, the health minister urged the public to do the utmost "for the lockdown to succeed" and bring the infection rate down. "I know it's not easy and it's much easier to blame the government, but without the cooperation of the general public we have no chance of succeeding."
He also appeared to have brushed off the claims the government did not handle the pandemic well. "There are two options - to deal more and more with mistakes - or to start correcting. I choose to correct. After we get out of the difficult situation, there will be a lot of time for soul-searching. But currently we're at war."
Edelstein added if the infection rate won't go down soon after the lockdown is imposed, the government might tighten the restriction further.