A Health Ministry official overseeing the ultra-Orthodox sector is holding advanced negotiations with rabbis and other prominent public figures within the community to allow the resumption of studies at yeshivas next week despite the sector's high coronavirus infection rate, Ynet has learned on Tuesday.
The negotiations between the head of the ultra-Orthodox desk at Israel's program against coronavirus Magen Israel, Maj. Gen. (Res.) Roni Numa, and ultra-Orthodox leaders began after the collapse of the "capsule outline" which mandated studies in religious institutions must take place in small groups to prevent mass outbreaks of coronavirus.
In doing so, Numa backed on his position presented at the beginning of the month, according to which the opening of the winter semester in Torah institutions should be postponed by a few weeks.
After the end of the previous capsule outline on the evening of Yom Kippur, Ynet revealed that over 6,000 out of about 26,000 students have contracted the virus - almost one in four.
In addition, 16,000 students studied in institutions that were not included in the program and operated "under the radar" unhindered, without any supervision by the state, without testing and in the absence of enforcement of health guidelines. As a result, there was no available data on infections among students before returning to their homes after Yom Kippur.
Health Ministry Director General Prof. Hezi Levy conceded that the outline has failed and Numa himself said that relaunching studies in religious institutions was unsafe and should be postponed.
Numa also said that yeshivas would not receive preferential treatment over the general education system in middle school and high school ages, which no longer seems to be the case.
Sources in the healthcare system have sharply criticized Numa, claiming his conduct does not suit a representative of the government but "a representative of the ultra-Orthodox public against the government."
"Instead of making us of the [the ultra-Orthodox sector's] trust in him to bridge [differences] and convey to them the severity of the situation… He sometimes seems like a lobbyist on their behalf who tries to promote various exceptions in the Coronavirus Cabinet according to the ultra-Orthodox interest," the sources said.