Rabbi David Lau
Rabbi David LauPhoto by Miriam Alster/Flash90

Israel's Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi, Rabbi David Lau, on Wednesday participated in a Zoom meeting of the Knesset's Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee regarding the coronavirus restrictions for synagogues.

According to him, there is no logic in placing the same restrictions on a synagogue with 300 seats as on smaller synagogues.

"I turned to them and requested," he said. "I am really asking them to pay attention: You cannot compare a synagogue with 20 seats, where a ten-person limit is logical, to a synagogue with 300 seats, where there is no logic in the restriction."

"I can't say if there is a place in Israel where the guidelines are kept like they are in the vast majority of synagogues in Israel. Ten people in the men's section, and when there is an eleventh, he goes up to the women's section. They keep the guidelines.

"The People of Israel are preparing for Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), when many people come and we must do everything so that they will continue to come. In open areas we cannot limit it to 20 people. Enforce it seriously, but please make conditions and implement them.

"In another 45 days, it will be Rosh Hashanah, and we will pray for a 'plague' of boundless love and friendship between people. Until then, please find a way to provide a proper solution so that the Children of Israel will be able to pray in synagogues."

At the start of the Zoom meeting, Constitution Committee Chairman MK Yakov Asher (UTJ) said, "A lot of things are difficult for us, but there are two things that are crucial for the haredi community more than anything else, and that is praying in the synagogues and the world of Torah and yeshivas. We need to find a solution for this."

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein (Likud), who participated in the meeting, said that the Ministry is trying to create uniform criteria, but said that the infection rates in the haredi community are relatively high.

"In closed spaces, it's clear that the danger is higher - both in synagogues and in restaurants. Most of the haredi public keeps the guidelines, and still 50% of the infection rate is among the haredi community. This is a failure on the part of the State, not the haredi public," he said.

"If there were 100% compliance with the guidelines, we would not have such an infection rate right now. Since compliance varies from place to place, there is a difficulty in setting uniform guidelines for everyone."

Responding to Edelstein's words, Asher said that "it would be appropriate for the Health Ministry to base itself on the number of households and not the number of patients when it comes to the haredi community. That would be a more worthy and accurate measurement."