Several South African Jews were blocked from entering Israel last Friday, after the government introduced restrictions to curb the spread of the Omicron variant. Among them were visitors who had come to pay their respects to the family of Eliyahu David Kay, Hy”d.
The two, along with three others, had departed from South Africa before the new restrictions banning foreign visitors from much of Africa were announced. All five were forced to leave on a flight on Friday that forced them desecrate Shabbos, despite pleading with officials to allow them to stay until after the end of Shabbos.
In response to this blatant chillul Shabbos, the Chief Rabbi of South Africa, Rabbi Dr. Warren Goldstein, and the Dayanim of the Beis Din of South Africa, sent a letter – yet unanswered as of Thursday morning – to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, addressing this issue.
“We were shocked and dismayed to hear that a group of Jewish travelers from South Africa, who arrived at Ben Gurion Airport this past Friday, were denied entry into Israel and forcibly returned to their country of origin, and as a result were compelled to desecrate Shabbat,” the Rabbanim wrote.
They add that “this [taking] place in the Jewish State is simply unconscionable.”
From the reports we received, the Rabbanim noted, no attempt was made to accommodate the passengers by allowing them to remain in quarantine over Shabbos.
“The South African Jewish community has a deep and abiding connection with the State of Israel and we are therefore greatly aggrieved by these events.
“Moreover, to force fellow Jews to desecrate Shabbat is a violation of the Jewish identity and Jewish values of the state. The manner in which the religious rights of these individuals have been infringed is not something one would expect of any country, and certainly not the Jewish State.”
The Rabbanim concluded their letter, “On behalf of South Africa’s Rabbis and the communities we represent, we wish to record our strongest objection to the forced desecration of Shabbat.”
As noted, the Prime Minister’s Office has yet to respond to the letter.