The rabbi’s statements come as the pandemic disproportionately affects ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities.
Rabat – Morocco’s Chief Rabbi Yoshiyahu Yosef Pinto has called upon the North African country’s Jews as well as the global Jewish community to respect national decisions taken in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Showing wisdom in abiding by national decisions taken in the face of this global pandemic is necessary and fundamental to contain the spread of the virus,” Pinto, president of the Rabbinical High Court in Morocco, stressed in a statement.
Pinto urged the community to remain vigilant during periods of confinement and not to give in to psychosis, underlining the importance of being kind to others while respecting the rules of social distancing.
The chief rabbi expressed faith in King Mohammed VI’s ability to “bring this unprecedented health crisis to a successful conclusion and protect the Moroccan people.”
Pinto remarked that Morocco “is the object of my prayers,” reiterating his solidarity with the King in the fight against the outbreak.
The chief rabbi also expressed his support for the members of the Moroccan Jewish community who tested positive for COVID-19.
COVID-19 and the Jewish community
The rabbi’s remarks come as some Orthodox Jewish communities, particularly those in Israel, are unaware of the threat of COVID-19 or are outright refusing to comply with preventive measures against the spread of the virus.
With 4,831 cases of COVID-19 and 17 deaths, Israel has moved to impose restrictions on public spaces in order to contain the outbreak.
However, the virus is quickly spreading in ultra-Orthodox Israeli cities such as Bnei Brak, where 35% of COVID-19 test results have come back positive, according to Haaretz.
Although the Haredim represent only 14% of Israel’s population, the community appears disproportionately affected by the virus: 60% of COVID-19 patients at a hospital near Tel Aviv are Orthodox Jews, an official spokesman for the hospital told CNN.
Haaretz writer Jessica Apple underlines the reasons for the spread as including “a lack of social distancing enforcement, crowded living conditions, and a dearth of information that is both scientifically sound and presented in a manner that the majority of the community is able to comprehend.”
Hundreds of Haredim gathered in Bnei Brak on March 28 to mourn the death of Rabbi Tzvi Shenkar despite social distancing recommendations and a substantial police presence, according to CNN.
Earlier in March, 150 people, including one who was supposed to be in quarantine, attended an ultra-Orthodox wedding in Bet Shemesh near Jerusalem, defying recent government restrictions that have limited weddings to 10 people.
Israeli police officers and SWAT teams have patrolled ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods such as Bnei Brak, Mea Shearim, and Kiryat Yearim to warn people of the restrictions on public gatherings.
However, some view the measures as an intrusion on the Haredi lifestyle.
CNN reports that residents of Mea Shearim called police officers “Nazis” and “murderers” during patrols and threw rocks at an emergency medical team carrying out a COVID-19 test.
The director-general at Israel’s Ministry of Health, Bar Siman Tov, said on March 30 the government is considering quarantining ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods to protect them from the epidemic.