City of Bat Yam closes synagogues

This is the first time that a major city has made a sweeping decision to close synagogues for a lengthy time period.

Arutz Sheva Staff ,

Tzvika Brot
Tzvika Brot
Shlomi Yosef

Bat Yam Mayor Tzvika Brot on Wednesday evening ordered the closure of all the synagogues in the city as of Friday morning.

This is the first time ever that a major city has made a sweeping decision to close synagogues for a lengthy time period. The Bat Yam decision will be in effect for one month at this stage.

The meaning of the move is that, as of this coming Shabbat, tens of thousands of worshipers, out of the 160,000 residents of Bat Yam, will be forced to pray in their homes and not as part of an organized minyan (quorum of 10 Jewish adults).

Brot made the decision after a series of assessments with professionals, and after speaking with the Chief Rabbi and the city's rabbis and receiving their backing for the move.

There are about 140 synagogues throughout the city, which will close for four weeks starting this Friday. Brot instructed the local police and municipal inspectors to enforce the closure in case any synagogues violate the directives which are intended to preserve public life and health.

At the same time, the municipality will be holding a massive public relations campaign to the worshipers, together with the rabbis and community leaders, asking the public to obey the closure orders. In addition, halakhic rulings of many rabbis stating that praying in synagogues is not permitted at this time and it is mandatory to stay home - including during the Passover period when the synagogues will still be closed - will be distributed to the residents.

Brot said on Wednesday evening, "This is a tough decision, but the equation is clear: If we keep the synagogues open - there is a high likelihood that more older people will die. The closure is designed to keep our residents alive, and reduce the risk of infection among city residents. This is a case of pikuach nefesh (the principle in Jewish law that the preservation of human life overrides virtually any other religious rule) and a life-saving step."