Prominent religious leaders in the ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak said on Thursday that prayers and dance rituals can be held inside synagogues during the Simchat Torah holiday despite coronavirus restrictions prohibiting gatherings and the opening of houses of prayer.
In a shared communique to residents, rabbis Shevach Tzvi Rosenblatt, Chaim Yitzchak Isaac Landau and Masoud Ben Shimon said that outdoor prayer services are preferable but allowed parishioners to gather in synagogue courts as well as within the buildings themselves.
The rabbis; who represent the city's main ultra-orthodox movements - Ashkenazi Lithuanian, Ashkenazi Hasidic and Sephardic; urged worshippers to use "the necessary caution at this time, to not be hurt or — Heaven forbid — hurt others."
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday urged the ultra-Orthodox public to adhere to the Health Ministry's coronavirus guidelines.
"I ask of everyone who is listening, protect yourselves — no dancing on Simchat Torah," Netanyahu told the ultra-Orthodox radio station, Kol Barama.
"There is no greater blasphemy than losing lives because of Simchat Torah. Pray outdoors, and follow the rules."
Earlier Thursday, the Education Ministry reported that more than half of Israeli students infected with coronavirus hail from the ultra-Orthodox sector.
Last week coronavirus czar Prof. Ronnie Gamzu said 40% of all new COVID-19 cases in Israel originated in the Haredi community.
The ministry said 51.8% of school children who have contracted COVID-19 study in ultra-Orthodox institutions, says the report prepared by the Education Ministry for health officials.
According to the report, Haredi students make up 19.39% of the total student body in Israel and is 448,298 strong. According to the ministry, 1.75% of them have already been infected by the virus.
Only 0.63% of non-Haredi students, around 15,285, have contracted COVID-19. At least 9.8% of them reside in the center of the country, 9.7% in the north, 5% in Jerusalem and 7.8% in the south.
At least 1,348 teaching staff have also been infected with the pathogen.