|FROM ||Ruben Safir
|SUBJECT ||Subject: [Hangout - NYLXS] Isralei lockdown kills Jewish rituals and the
Israel Prepares for Its Second Nationwide Covid-19 Lockdown
Felicia Schwartz and Dov Lieber
TEL AVIV—Religious leaders and business owners in Israel are rushing to
prepare for a second nationwide lockdown that is set to upend the Jewish
holidays, as health workers brace for a new wave of Covid-19 infections.
The lockdown—which is expected to last through Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur
and Sukkot—is in response to Israel dealing with one of the worst daily
coronavirus-infection rates per capita in the world. New cases are
hovering at more than 3,000 a day. Some health officials warn Israel’s
hospitals could be overwhelmed during the coming flu season.
“If something will not be done very quickly, we will have to use extreme
scenarios,” said Dr. Michael Halberthal, the general director and chief
executive of Rambam Hospital in Haifa. “We will have to obviously stop
some of the care that we are giving to the non-Covid-19 patients in the
Israel’s high-holiday season is usually one where large families
congregate together and synagogues are often filled with hundreds to
thousands of people. Concerns about the new coronavirus that causes
Covid-19 are dramatically altering this year’s prayers, where gatherings
will be confined to smaller groups in improvised settings.
Rabbi Shimon Rabinowitz, an official in the ultra-Orthodox town Kfar
Chabad, said his town usually has 10 different congregations that gather
in synagogues for the Rosh Hashana holiday for the nearly daylong
services. This year, he is preparing for 100 microcongregations, to
conform to social-distancing regulations.
To do this, Mr. Reichman plans to set up 40 tents and convert the town’s
kindergartens into prayer areas. He said 50 people were trained on how
to blow the traditional ram’s horn, or Shofar, a key part of the
services. Musical discs were distributed to help train novices on how to
lead the special prayers usually led by paid professionals.
His town has also made 40 tiny wooden arks to house Torah scrolls. “It’s
going to be an interesting holiday,” Mr. Rabinowitz said.
In the current climate, some services won’t proceed. In Jerusalem, the
so-called Great Synagogue, one of the largest in Jerusalem and renowned
for its rare use of a choir, will close its doors for the first time
since opening in 1958.
Gatherings in Israel for this year’s Jewish holidays will be confined to
smaller groups in improvised settings.
Photo: Ariel Schalit/Associated Press
“An important factor in this decision is the lack of knowledge, the
confusion, and the debates between experts and the changes in
regulations,” the synagogue wrote in a letter to its congregants.
In Bnei Brak, a major ultra-Orthodox center, synagogue employees used
nylon drapes to section off synagogue areas to allow groups of 10 people
to isolate themselves from one another.
The expected three-week shutdown is likely to deal a significant blow to
many business owners who haven’t recovered from the first lockdown,
which began in mid-March. All of the initial shutdown’s restrictions
were lifted by mid-May.
Natan Galkowycz, 68 years old, owner of the Brazilian cuisine
restaurant Mides, located in a small farming village in Israel’s south,
said he will have to close his business for the whole three weeks
because he doesn’t have the necessary infrastructure to offer
deliveries. The first closure in April cost him about $35,000, and he
received a little over $4,000 in compensation from the government. He
expects to lose $29,000 during this closure
“Every business is paying a price. I’m no different and I’m paying a
high price,” Mr. Galkowycz said. “I hope I can survive,” he said.
Under the lockdown regulations, restaurants must be closed but can still
deliver. Bars, hotels, gyms and entertainment and cultural sites will
remain shut. Private companies can stay open if they don’t receive the
public, so some people will continue to commute to work. People must
stay within about one-third of a mile of their homes unless shopping for
essential goods or seeking essential services.
Some Israelis say they are hoping to apply lessons learned from the
Shira Tober, 33, who works at an education-technology company, said she
has already begun mapping various walking routes from her house that
comply with the government’s 500-meter directive, particularly after she
struggled with her work-life balance the first time around.
“I’m going to need to find creative ways to make sure that I can get
sunshine, so that I can feel a little bit active,” she said. “I know if
I am just confined to my home it can lead to a downward spiral.”
Write to Felicia Schwartz at Felicia.Schwartz-at-wsj.com
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