Charedi schools reopen in Israel, defying Covid restrictions

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Charedi schools reopen in Israel, defying Covid restrictions

Decision came from senior Charedi Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, as the government continues to battle the spread of the virus

Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky,
Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky,

Hundreds of strictly Orthodox schools reopened in Israel this week, in the latest example of the country’s Charedi community defying the national government’s lockdown order.

Leaders of primary and secondary schools told to close in an effort to contain the spread of coronavirus threw open their doors on Sunday, and again on Monday, as police refrained from ordering children home.

A minority of Charedi schools remained closed. These included those of the Gerer Chasids and the Sephardic Charedim, associated with the Shas political party, which is a governing coalition partner.

The decision to reopen the schools came from senior Charedi Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, a Litvak community leader, and although some school principals were fined, politicians said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had now lost control of the sector.

“He’s incapable of standing up to the Charedi parties and of fighting resolutely against the spread of the coronavirus in Charedi society,” said one unnamed cabinet minister, speaking to Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronot.

“If we don’t stand up to Charedi civil disobedience, it will lead us into a third lockdown. Netanyahu is being run by the Charedi parties’ leaders. They have him by the throat. The price is being paid by all citizens.”

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said: “There is no permission to open any school for children over the age of six. We will issue heavy fines and revoke licenses and budgets from anyone who opened in violation of the law.”

Law professor Yedidia Stern from Bar Ilan University said: “It is extremely dangerous. It shows other parts of Israel’s divided society that this option forces the rule of law to bow. It removes a mental barrier that stands in the way of a terrifying escalation in the Israeli culture war.”


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