Israel Exempts Houses of Worship From COVID Restrictions

COVID regulations will only apply to prayers involving more than 50 people ■ Source says attorney general warned broader restrictions might violate freedom of worship

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
A synagogue in Bnei Brak in January.
A synagogue in Bnei Brak in January.Credit: Avishag Shaar-Yashuv
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Israel's coronavirus cabinet decided Thursday to exempt worshipers at Synagogues, mosques and churches from the obligation to carry the Green Pass – a certificate granted upon full vaccination or proof of immunity.

The decision, which came at the request of Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit, imposes entry restrictions only when prayers involve more than 50 people.

In previous COVID waves, houses of worship were exempted from government restrictions, a decision that health experts said accelerated the spread of the virus and elicited considerable public criticism.

The coronavirus cabinet voted Wednesday night to widen Green Pass restrictions on gatherings of less than 100 people. A source said that after the decision was taken, Mendelblit told the ministers that houses of worship should be exempted on the grounds of religious freedom.

As a result, Deputy Attorney General Raz Nizri worked with the Health Ministry on a new wording for the decision, which was then approved in a telephone vote by ministers on Thursday evening.

Four of them opposed the change – Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Public Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev, Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton, and Economy and Industry Minister Orna Barbivai.

The other members of the coronavirus cabinet are Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, Defense Minister Benny Gantz and seven other ministers.

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