In light of the rising numbers of coronavirus infections in Israel despite the fact that the vast majority of the adult population has been vaccinated against the virus, rabbis are starting to speak out in harsher language against “vaccine refusers,” even to the point of making halakhic rulings (citing Jewish law) that anyone who is not vaccinated is not allowed to enter a synagogue to pray with the community.
This week, Rabbi Yaakov Ariel, a former chief rabbi of Ramat Gan and considered one of the leading halakhic authorities in the Religious-Zionist community, stated that it was proper to impose sanctions on anyone who is not vaccinated against COVID-19, explaining that as they endanger others, this is the right course of action to take.
“Anyone who is not vaccinated is violating halakhah,” he said, “which requires a person to be healthy. We are obligated to demand that everyone is vaccinated, and to tell anyone who refuses the vaccine not to mingle with the community. He should be respectful and remain at home and not infect others.”
Rabbi Ariel explained further that, “If someone like this does turn up in a place where people are gathered, he should be asked to leave. Obviously this should not be done in a violent manner, but it is forbidden to allow him to remain. This is a simple humanitarian demand – do not harm others.”
Therefore, he concluded, “It is forbidden for someone who opposes vaccines to enter the synagogue, to participate in a prayer quorum, or to have an aliyah (be called up to) to the Torah. He should respect others and stay at home or pray outside the synagogue building.”
A few days ago, another prominent rabbi, Rabbi Yitzhak Yehudah Yaroslavsky of the Chabad community, issued a similar ruling, barring the unvaccinated from entering synagogues.
Israel Hayom also reported on an incident that occurred this week during a Torah class given by Rabbi Ben Zion Mutzafi, a prominent rabbi in the Sephardic community. During the class, a dispute broke out between the rabbi and one of the participants, who said, “The Jewish People are not a research lab. I believe in the Creator of the world.”
Rabbi Mutzafi was reportedly furious with the person, demanding that he leave the class.
“More than 6,500 people have died – stop driving us crazy,” he said.