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Israel Girds for Covid-19 Disruptions to Jewish Holidays


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 hospital.”

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 nearly daylong services. This year, he is preparing for 100 microcongregations, to conform to social-distancing regulations.

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