Cocooned among plastic-sheeted cubicles stacked high with sacred books, Jewish seminary students have found a way to keep their studies in Israel going safely amid the coronavirus outbreak.
The 600 students of the Max and Ruth Schwartz Hesder Yeshiva in Sderot devote their time to religious studies and, like many of their peers, cherish the rabbinical tradition of “Hevruta”, or learning in pairs.
But at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, that practice is virtually impossible to combine with social distancing, as are the daily group prayers and rabbinical lectures.
“We knew that we had to find some way of restoring the beautiful, strong cacophony of Torah (Bible), learning, prayer, to somehow bring that back to the Max and Ruth Schwartz Hesder Yeshiva in Sderot,” said the seminary’s head, Rabbi Duv Fendel.
The inspiration came from countries where pupils’ desks have been fitted with plastic dividers to stave off infection.
“It’s something phenomenal, because it allows the younger to learn with the older boys and it allows the rabbis, even though they’re not in the same capsule, to be able to talk and discuss Torah topics in depth,” said Fendel.
The Health Ministry said 1,943 people tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday, the highest daily tally seen in the country since July. With 33,272 virus tests conducted, the infection rate now stands at 6.1%.
The death toll from coronavirus-related complications has increased to 867, of whom 400 passed away over the past month alone.