Israel’s chief rabbi has called on the nation to humble itself before God and fast amid the coronavirus outbreak that has brought the Jewish State to a grinding halt.
Chief Rabbi David Lau wrote a letter Sunday asking Israel to fast until midnight Wednesday to “remove the coronavirus disease,” according to CBN News.
“The good Lord will listen to our prayers and answer us and redeem us from all the harsh decrees, He will save in His great mercy his people Israel and all the children of the world who need it. A petition looking to Divine Mercy,” he said.
Lau also advised people who are unable to fast to practice “ta’anit dibur,” which is abstaining from any speech that is not about the Torah or prayer.
“Difficult days are affecting all of Israel and the entire world,” wrote Lau. “At this time, it is on us to do some soul-searching.”
He also encouraged municipal rabbis to hold prayer meetings at synagogues across Israel – provided the meetings are limited to 10 people and individuals stay six feet apart.
As of early Tuesday, some 1,600 Israelis have been infected with coronavirus, of which 31 are serious cases. The Health Ministry says that most cases are mild.
Haaretz has reported that two people have died in Israel from the virus. The first was an 88-year-old Holocaust survivor from Jerusalem. The second death was a 67-year-old woman with pre-existing conditions.
Meanwhile, an Israeli rights group warned that the healthcare system in the Gaza Strip was already “on the brink of collapse” before the coronavirus outbreak. The group said the country could face shortages of medicine and equipment.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to announce new restrictions in the country, which could include a shutdown of public transportation and limits to how far civilians can leave their homes. Under such an order, only grocery stores and pharmacies would remain open.