Un­der lockdown, Is­rael faces bit­ter start to Jewish new year

Daily Southtown - - Nation & World - By Ilan Ben Zion

JERUSALEM — Eat­ing ap­ples dipped in honey on Rosh Hashana is a Jewish tra­di­tion to sym­bol­ize a sweet start of the new year. But in Is­rael, bit­ter­ness prevails on the eve of the hol­i­day as the coun­try faces a sec­ond na­tion­wide lockdown to stem a rag­ing coro­n­avirus out­break.

Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jam­inNe­tanyahu’s gov­ern­ment has im­posed a three-week lockdown, be­gin­ning Fri­day after­noon— just hours be­fore Rosh Hashana starts. Is­rael’s first lockdown, in March and April, put a damper on Passover, the Jewish spring hol­i­day mark­ing the de­liv­er­ance of the an­cient He­brews from slav­ery in Egypt.

Now, the Jewish High Hol­i­days look to be sim­i­larly sub­dued.

Is­rael has seen new daily cases of COVID-19 sky­rocket in re­cent weeks, climb­ing to more than 5,000Wed­nes­day — one of the high­est per capita in­fec­tion rates in the world. Since the pan­demic be­gan this year, it has recorded more than 175,000 cases, in­clud­ing 1,169 deaths, as of

Thurs­day, ac­cord­ing to a tally by Johns Hop­kins Uni­ver­sity.

Re­li­gious and sec­u­lar Is­raelis alike mark Rosh Hashana with fes­tive hol­i­day feasts with fam­ily and friends. They pack syn­a­gogues, of­ten spend­ing hours in prayer, es­pe­cially dur­ing the fast of Yom Kip­pur, the Day of Atone­ment, which falls later this month.

But this year, tra­di­tional fam­ily gath­er­ings will be muted, syn­a­gogue prayers will be lim­ited to small groups and travel re­stric­tions will leave many roads de­serted. Some of the lib­eral streams of Ju­daism, par­tic­u­larly in the United States, are turn­ing to tech­nol­ogy to help con­nect peo­ple.

In Is­rael, move­ment­dur­ing the lockdown will be re­stricted to within 550 yards of one’s home. Gath­er­ings are lim­ited to 10 peo­ple in­doors, and 20 out­side, re­strict­ing thenum­ber of faith­ful who can at­tend syn­a­gogue services. Bars, res­tau­rants and cul­tural venues will be shut, but many rit­ual baths and other re­li­gious fa­cil­i­ties will re­main open.

Is­raelis have been frus­trated since the gains made with the first lockdown were erased within weeks, with au­thor­i­ties un­able to stem the spike that fol­lowed. Weekly protests have drawn thou­sands to Ne­tanyahu’s Jerusalem res­i­dence, with demon­stra­tors de­mand­ing his res­ig­na­tion.

Th­e­lock­down­rule­shave deep­ened the rift be­tween sec­u­lar and re­li­gious Jews in Is­rael. A pro­posal to lock down only on com­mu­ni­ties with high out­breaks — mainly ul­tra- Ortho­dox ar­eas where ini­tial re­stric­tions were ig­nored, al­low­ing in­fec­tions to surge — was scrapped, ap­par­ently fol­low­ing pres­sure from ul­tra-Ortho­dox lead­ers, be­foreNe­tanyahu an­nounced the na­tion­wide lockdown.

Many Jewish wor­ship­pers else­where in the­world will have to forgo syn­a­gogue services due to so­cial dis­tanc­ing rules, hold prayers and hear the tra­di­tional sounding of the sho­far — a cer­e­mo­nial ram’s horn— on street cor­ners or at home.

The Chabad-Lubav­itch move­mentofHa­sidic Ju­daism has re­cruited thou­sands of vol­un­teers to blow the sho­far at pub­lic squares and street cor­ners world­wide.


Ul­tra-Ortho­dox Jews build an out­door syn­a­gogue Thurs­day in Bnei Brak, Is­rael, ahead of a three-week coro­n­avirus lockdown. The sec­ond na­tion­wide lockdown be­gins Fri­day.

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