BNEI BRAK (VINnews) — As the cases of coronavirus gradually decrease in Israel, with less than 2000 cases reported on Shabbos and only 4% of the tests producing positive results, there has been significant pressure this week to reach a framework allowing for the opening of Talmud Torahs.
The original decision of the rabbinical leadership was to attempt to reach an agreement with the government over the framework, but as it became clear that the government would not authorize opening Talmud Torahs while at the same time opening kindergartens even in districts marked as ‘red’ (high levels of infection), Rabbi Kanievski and Rabbi Edelstein decided to open all Talmud Torahs immediately, with or without a government framework.
The decision was taken Thursday night in a meeting with heads of Talmud Torahs and leading rabbis. At the same time the chasidic leadership has also decided to open both Talmud Torahs and the Yeshiva Ketana institutions. However Shas’s spiritual leader Rabbi Shalom Cohen has decided not to open any of the Sephardic Talmud Torahs until a framework has been reached with the government.
The steps have aroused significant opposition in government circles, with some officials calling for sanctions to be taken against Talmud Torahs that open and cancellation of government funding to those institutions. Moreover the government officials reiterated that opening the Talmud Torahs would lead to the cancellation of the framework agreed upon for opening Yeshiva Ketanas.
Prime Minister Netanyahu responded to the decision by calling on the chareidi public to keep the regulations. “I call on the chareidi community not to do this, I call on the leaders not to do this,” he said. ” ‘You must be very careful with your lives’. The Torah is a Torah of life and we are endangering lives. The authorities said that we shouldn’t open anything besides kindergartens and I call on the Chareidi leaders not to do this.”
He added that “I will maintain the lockdown in ‘red’ towns in order to prevent spreading of the virus to other towns. I don’t want to see any violence, I respect the Torah world. We will use legal tools, we will do all required to maintain the order and the lockdown and we will enforce and issue fines in order to keep the rules which are important to the chareidi public and important to all of us.”
Coronavirus project manager Professor Ronny Gamzu also criticized the decision to open the educational institutions for children over 6, stating that “most of the ‘red’ cities are chareidi and have higher rates of infection. There is hidden infection in these regions.
“The message is clear- opening the educational system for other ages is not authorized. This will cause renewed infection and I ask to abstain from this step. Education is a supreme value but only in a safe manner.”