Will Israelis spend Rosh Hashanah with only their nuclear families?

If restrictions hold, High Holiday prayer services could be held outside.

A Jewish worshipper blows a Shofar,  at the Western Wall ahead of Rosh Hashana (photo credit: AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS)
A Jewish worshipper blows a Shofar, at the Western Wall ahead of Rosh Hashana
(photo credit: AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS)
The government may require Israelis to hold their Rosh Hashanah and other High Holiday celebrations with only their nuclear family members, a senior official in the Health Ministry has told the Hebrew daily Israel Hayom.
Although the decision is not formalized or final and will be based on the coronavirus infection rate in the country, the official told the paper that “the prevailing assessment now is that it will be inevitable.” The official said that the assessment is being made based on current trends in Israel and internationally.
As of Sunday morning, there were more than 21,000 Israelis infected with the novel coronavirus, the Health Ministry reported. Moreover, more than 1,600 people tested positive the day before – breaking another record.
According to the Coronavirus National Information and Knowledge Center, the infection rate is doubling every 12 days.
Also, recent reports by the Health Ministry showed that the majority of infections happen at home.
Specifically, on Sunday, the ministry reported that in cases where the place of infection is known, the most common places for people to contract the virus are: at home ( approximately 65.8%), educational institutions (10.3%), medical institutions (5.8%), events or conferences (3.95%), synagogues (2.2%), shopping centers or stores (2%), or at recreational locations (1.8%). Another 8.2% were not exposed to any of these places but came in contact with a sick person at an unknown location.
Recall, the Israeli public was asked to celebrate Passover, Easter and Ramadan alone, without their extended families and friends, to help stop the spread of the deadly novel coronavirus.
The senior health official told Israel Hayom that since Rosh Hashanah meals are often attended by dozens of guests, including elderly family members, this could put people at risk. The official also said that the government may issue a recommendation instead of a directive, but it was yet unclear.
Rosh Hashanah begins at sundown on September 18 and Yom Kippur starts at sundown on September 27.
Assuming that the Health Ministry directives are similar to those in effect now, in which only 20 people are able to congregate for prayers, then only small numbers will be able to gather in the fall. Hence, prayers could need to take place in outdoor courtyards or parking lots, which could pose a challenge, given the hot weather and the large number of people who usually participate in High Holiday prayers and activities.
A poll conducted in 2019 by the Israel Democracy Institute revealed that as much as 60% of the Israeli public fasts on Yom Kippur. Also, around one-quarter (23%) of Israelis said they attend prayer services in full; 19% said they would go to some services; 39% planned on not attending synagogue at all; and 12% said they would turn up to hear the shofar blasts at the end of the final prayer service of the day.