Chareidi Adviser to Minister: Restrictions on Tefillah Lack Logic

Tefillas Shacharis at the Kosel, last week. (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)

Arik Yekouel, the Israel Police’s first chareidi commissioner, who now serves as adviser to the Public Security Minister Amir Ohana on chareidi affairs, recently drafted a letter to Ohana concerning meetings with chareidi leaders and members of the community in dealing with the struggle against the coronavirus.

“In recent months, we are witness to strong feelings of resentment among the chareidi public, who see a policy of discrimination, accusations and selective enforcement,” wrote Yekouel. “They complain as well of lack of proper outreach and cooperation, leading to confrontations with law enforcement officials, violent protests and the like….  Cooperation with this public and its leaders and their confidence in the government’s conduct are necessary conditions for success in the struggle against corona.”

As for how it is possible to gain this confidence, Yekouel wrote: “In order to develop any chance for this confidence and to gain cooperation, it is imperative that the ‘decrees’ against this public be clear, so that they understand the logic behind them. … In each of my meetings this past month with heads of the chareidi community, it seems that the single greatest obstacle to gaining the confidence of this public is in the logic of the government’s efforts in the limitations placed on tefillah. The public does not understand the logic behind these specific numbers of 20 inside a shul or 30 in outdoor areas, and the gap between these limitations and those of gatherings such as at protests, beaches or in malls.”

Lack of understanding the logic in these limitations directly hurts the chareidi public’s confidence in the government’s overall efforts concerning corona. How can they understand the logic behind a decision to limit mispallelim in a shul to 20? Should a 100-square meter shul be treated the same as a shul that is 500 square meters or more? The public does not understand this. And outside, tefillah is limited to just 30 mispallelim. How can you explain to the public that at a beach, hundreds of people are permitted to go to the beach without masks?”