With restrictions on movement and gathering starting this Friday, Israelis will once again spend the holidays away from family and friends.
Rosh Hashanah will be the second Jewish holiday to be held under tight lockdown restrictions which will last at least till the end of the Sukkot festival. The first lockdown, which lasted from mid-March to April, meant that families had to celebrate last year’s Passover Seder without the traditional family gathering.
Throughout the lockdown, prayers will be permitted with restrictions. Even shofar blowing is limited. In the so-called “red zones,” in cities where numbers of cases have been high, synagogues will only allow up to 10 worshippers at a time. In less badly affected areas, a maximum of 25 worshippers will be allowed at a time. Across the country, worship will be allowed in the open in groups of up to 20 people and under, while adhering to the 2 meter distance rule.
Family holiday meals, however, will not be held during lockdown. The restrictions are set to begin just before the Rosh Hashanah meals, effectively banning family gatherings. Some families plan to have virtual meals using video call services to celebrate the holiday together despite the restrictions.
Israela, 61, lives alone in Rehovot, and will be spending Rosh Hashanah on her own. “I’m really not looking forward to this lockdown,” she told Davar. “I suffered from depression during the last lockdown. I don’t want to spend the holidays alone.”
To avoid having to spend Rosh Hashanah separately, some families have decided to celebrate the Jewish New Year a day earlier, before lockdown begins. This, however, has come under criticism from the medical authorities, who have warned against a rise in infections.
In an attempt to deter families from ignoring restrictions, the police have announced intention to fine families 500 shekels per head if they are caught returning from a holiday meal. The police have requested the public to comply with the restrictions, and stay at home during the holidays.
Many families are also facing the stress of holiday expenditures in the midst of the deep economic crisis brought about by the pandemic. Households have suffered a dramatic fall in average income, causing holiday shopping to be a heavier burden than usual. Some have cut back on spending, preferring to keep holiday meals modest, with supermarket chains expecting lower revenues from holiday season this year.