A leading Israeli rabbi ejected a man from his lecture hall on Sunday after the latter expressed opposition to the COVID-19 vaccine.
“More than 6,500 people died, stop making things up, go, get out of here, you’re crazy,” Rabbi Ben Zion Mutzafi told one of his audience members in Jerusalem.
When the man continued, the rabbi shouted: “You’re crazy, I am declaring you crazy — get out of here. I will not allow you to speak, you are a heretic.”
The confrontation is symbolic of the major turnaround in Orthodox Jewish views on the pandemic and the vaccine in recent months.
An increasing number of mainstream rabbis are now instructing the faithful to go get vaccinated against COVID-19. Early in the pandemic, many of the same rabbis had refused to comply with coronavirus regulations, resulting in Orthodox Jewish communities becoming hotbeds of infection.
A nurse at a major Jerusalem hospital confirmed to Israel Today that once the rabbis gave the green light, a large percentage, if not a majority of local Orthodox Jews came out to get vaccinated.
Rabbi Mutzafi was among the first big rabbis to really get on board with government policy related to combatting the pandemic. Back in October 2020, he was insisting that any Jew who shows up for prayers without a mask should be ejected from the minyan (quorum).
“There are people outside who don’t have masks. You can’t include these people in prayer quorums, it is forbidden to pray with them,” he stressed at the time. “Their prayers are an abomination, since they are hurting others, God help us.”
Infection rates climb
The Delta variant continues to rapidly spread through Israel.
On Monday Israel registered 8,646 new infections, a daily positive infection rate of 6.2%, the highest it has been since March.
The number of COVID-19 patients in serious condition now stands at 559, with 89 on ventilators. Israel is seeing around a dozen additional coronavirus-related deaths every day at present.
While vaccination is not preventing Israelis from being infected by the Delta variant, the Ministry of Health said that the numbers show unvaccinated citizens are nearly 8 times as likely to become seriously ill and require hospitalization.