High Court Petition Demands Outdoor Minyanim Be Restored

Placards in Bnei Brak calling for residents to stay home. (Gili Yaari/Flash90)

The High Court on Thursday heard three petitions protesting the government’s edicts against minyanim. The petitions cited rules that allowed Israelis to attend protests, if they observed social distancing rules, and demanded that individuals seeking to daven in a minyan be afforded the same “right of assembly.” The court is set to rule on the petitions in the coming days.

According to Rabbi Shalom Siegel, one of the petitioners, “religious Jews are being discriminated against. People go out every day, sometimes several times a day, to walk their dogs, and that is allowed, but when I want to get together ten people for a period of half an hour, separated from each other the requisite distance – and I am prepared to post financial guarantees that they will observe the rules – I am not allowed,” he told Yisrael Hayom.

Under emergency health regulations, minyanim, even on the street, are currently banned, as individuals cannot gather in groups of more than two. The only legal way to conduct a minyan is for participants to stand on their own porches and terraces, with a shaliach tzibbur stationed outside on the street leading prayers.

In a similar vein, a perturbed MK Rabbi Uri Maklev (United Torah Judaism) interrupted a discussion of the Knesset Arrangements Committee Thursday to protest a ruling by Committee chairperson MK Avi Nissenkorn that allowed 15 MKs to gather in a single room to discuss telephone surveillance of individuals infected by coronavirus.

“What kind of example is this that we are setting,” MK Rabbi Maklev said during the meeting. “The public is seeing how the Knesset can be ‘flexible’ when needed, but all of us had to spend Seder night alone in our houses without grandparents. We don’t let people pray outside even if they are standing five meters away from each other,” he said, adding that authorizing such gatherings in the Knesset would inspire others to gather for reasons they consider important – defeating the purpose of social isolation.

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