Thousands of ultra-Orthodox return to school, defying govt. decision

Written by on October 18, 2020

These children are living in deep red-zone areas, including Bnei Brak, Beitar Illit, and some Jerusalem neighborhoods.

Students and a rabbi at an ultra-orthodox school in B'nei Brak, July 2017 (photo credit: NIR ELIAS / REUTERS)

Students and a rabbi at an ultra-orthodox school in B’nei Brak, July 2017

(photo credit: NIR ELIAS / REUTERS)

Tens of thousands of ultra-Orthodox children returned to “Talmud Torah” elementary, and “yeshiva ketana” high schools on Sunday, in defiance of the government decision to keep educational institutions in red-zone cities closed.

Children in the cities of Bnei Brak, Elad, Modiin Illit, and Beitar Illit are considered to be living in red-zone areas due to high COVID-19 infection rates. Included are some Jerusalem neighborhoods as well. The students reportedly returned to their studies despite the government’s instructions.

This development occurred over the weekend as a result of a decision by Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, one of the two most senior rabbis in the ultra-Orthodox non-hassidic community, to instruct such schools to reopen regardless of the government’s decisions.

Kanievsky did not issue a blanket order or public statement on the matter, but when ultra-Orthodox school principals asked whether they should open or not, he instructed them to open.

Rabbi Gershon Edelstein, the other most senior rabbi in the sector, who has been somewhat more cautious, responded to the principals that they should not come into conflict with the government and police, but to open schools if possible.

Many hassidic schools have also opened as well.

Elementary schools in the Sephardi ultra-Orthodox sector have not opened, in line with the ruling of Rabbi Shalom Cohen, president of the Shas Council of Torah Sages, a decision affecting some 50,000 children.

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