Israeli synagogues reopened on Wednesday morning, two months after being ordered closed to prevent the spread of the deadly COVID-19 virus.
The joint announcement from the Health Ministry and the Prime Minister’s Office came late Tuesday evening and following pressure brought to bear by Israel’s chief rabbi and other religious officials.
Under the announced guidelines, up to 50 worshippers can be in the building at one time, with 6 feet between each person. Worshippers must bring their own prayer books and other equipment and must wear masks at all times. Each synagogue must appoint a “corona official” whose job is to make sure that the regulations are being followed.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a meeting Tuesday with health and religious officials in order to make decisions on reopening houses of worship. The Israeli media reported earlier in the week that an outline for reopening houses of worship had already been drawn up and presented to the Health Ministry.
Earlier Tuesday, Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau in a letter to Netanyahu called for the immediate reopening of the country’s synagogues.
“The return to normal of shopping centers, restaurants etc. and the lack of answers on synagogues, is baffling to many,” Lau wrote in the widely reported letter, noting that communal prayer is an important part of Jewish life.
He added wryly that worshippers’ pain is not noticed as much since they do not have a union to advocate for them.