Rebbe Chaim Kanievsky, leader of a large ultra-Orthodox community, originally ordered his hundreds of thousands of followers to ignore the Israeli Health Ministry’s order to close all schools. Now it seems he has received further insights from above. “A teacher or an educator who hasn’t been vaccinated won’t come to teach,” the rebbe told Salman Zarka, Israel’s Chief COVID-19 Officer this week. He added that “school principals are to suspend teachers who are not vaccinated.”
In the meeting, Zarka, who comes from Israel’s Druze community, asked the rebbe to bless the national vaccination and booster shots campaign. Rebbe Kanievsky responded by saying in Aramaic that the vaccines are “a help of heaven.”
The rebbe’s rulings on corona have vacillated over the past year. During the rapid spread of Covid-19 in 2020, when Rebbe Kanievsky ordered his followers to defy the Israeli Health Ministry’s orders, he suggested that the way to defeat the virus was to avoid speaking evil about ones neighbor, increased humility, and putting the needs of others before their own. It should be pointed out that many Christians have also suggested that the fight against the pandemic would be best fought by national repentance.
Subsequently, after the ultra-Orthodox community was hit hard by the virus, Kanievsky ruled that anyone who does not follow the Israeli Health Ministry’s guidelines is in the position of one who pursues another with intent to murder. He also ruled that telephones may be answered on Shabbat to get COVID-19 test results, and that a minyan (the minimum ten men for a prayer service) was not necessary during the pandemic.
On October 2, 2020, Reb Kanievsky was diagnosed with Covid, and on October 28, 2020, his physician declared he had recovered from the virus.
In October 2020, however, when the schools were again ordered closed to control the pandemic, Reb Kanievsky told his followers to defy the order and keep their schools open. Many did and Haredi children contributed to a spike in Covid-19 cases in the country.
In general, there now seems to be growing acceptance for the vaccinations among the ultra-Orthodox as a number of rabbis are calling upon their communities to get a third COVID booster.
This is especially the case now, as some of the larger Orthodox cities are now experiencing high infection rates, though serious cases and hospitalizations are relatively low. compared young people.
Mani Hadad, spokesman on the Health Ministry’s Haredi desk, told The Times of Israel: “We knew this would happen and there would be an increase in cases in the community, given people live in high-density settings and as Haredi schools have already restarted, but we are not worried at this stage. Vaccination levels are high, and people are open to boosters.”