Jews praying outside of a closed synagogue in Netanya

Israel mulls reopening of houses of worship

Each house of worship will have permanent parishioners, with religious articles brought from home and a 'virus supervisor' to make sure public health directives are being observed

Itamar Eichner, Adir Yanko |
Published: 05.17.20 , 21:00
Security, health and interior government officials met on Sunday to prepare an outline for the reopening of synagogues and houses of worship.
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  • Houses of worship throughout the country have been shuttered under order since March 26, with many communities closing down these institutions before the Health Ministry edict following pleas by senior rabbis to do so.
    מתפללים ליד בית הכנסת הסגור בנתניהמתפללים ליד בית הכנסת הסגור בנתניה
    Jews praying outside of a closed synagogue in Netanya
    (Photo: Ido Erez )
    According to the outline which will be brought to the government for approval, houses of worship would allow only permanent parishioners to attend services while social distancing would be observed by a separation of seats within the building.
    Attendees would also be required to don a protective face mask throughout the service, with prayer books and articles to brought from home.
    Each temple would have an appointed "coronavirus supervisor" who would oversee that public health directives are being adhered to.
    Over the past weeks, as coronavirus restrictions continue to be eased, more protest have been heard throughout the country demanding to reopen the synagogues after schools and businesses were allowed to.
    Synagogues have been marked by health officials as problematic infection sites throughout the epidemic after many in the ultra-Orthodox communities did not observe the guidelines for social distancing.
    פשיטה של המשטרה על בתי כנסת בירושליםפשיטה של המשטרה על בתי כנסת בירושלים
    Police raiding an illegally opened synagogue in Jerusalem
    (Photo: Israel Police)
    The Chief Rabbinate has been criticized for not calling for a closure of synagogues earlier during the epidemic.
    Disagreements between Rabbinate officials, who urged the continuation of public prayer under health supervisions and senior rabbis, who called for the immediate closure of prayer houses, have led to a disorganized shuttering of these institutions.
    A day prior to the Health Ministry order to shutter temples, official data pointed to these locations as problematic breeding grounds for further spread of coronavirus.
    Health authorities and leaders in the Muslim communities have urged their faithful to refrain from crowded prayers in mosques during the holy month of Ramadan which is nearing its end later in the week.

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