Photo Credit: Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90
Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau

Israel’s Chief Rabbi, Rabbi David Lau on Tuesday sent an urgent letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, demanding that Israeli synagogues be opened to the public immediately.

The Chief Rabbi mentioned his absolute support for all the guidelines issued by the government to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, but added that it is inconceivable that while so many other sectors of Israel’s public are being opened up, the country’s synagogues remain under a lockdown.

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And this week’s unprecedented heat wave, with temperatures rising to 114 degrees Fahrenheit even along the shore, hasn’t helped things, as minyanim are being held in the scorching outdoors instead of inside air-conditioned synagogues.

Rabbi Lau asked the Prime Minister to issue post haste clear instructions permitting the public to return to the synagogues.

The outline for opening the synagogues has already been presented by Interior Minister Aryeh Deri (Shas) and has been approved by the NSC and the Health Ministry, and should take effect this coming Shabbat – should the PM agree to sign it.

The outline for opening shuls includes stipulating that all of them will be opened, with the obligation to separate each two worshipers with an empty seat.

Also: you have to bring your own siddur and chumash and whatever else you plan to read during davening – no one may use the shul’s seforim.

And the shul must be disinfected every night. And you can’t invite guests. Only the regulars may come in.

Entry to the synagogue will require checking everyone’s temperature, and on Shabbat with that new thermometer that’s mutar on Shabbat. Also: several poskim permit using mercury thermometers on Shabbat (see a discussion of this issue in Thermometers on Shabbat).

Everyone who goes into a synagogue must be listed, with their ID or phone number. On Shabbat – pre-registration.

And no one in a high risk group is allowed in even after the shuls are opened.

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