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A Quiet Purim in Israel This Year

"In them the king granted the Jews who were in each and every city the right to assemble and to defend their lives, to destroy, to kill and to annihilate the entire army of any people or province which might attack them, including children and women, and to plunder their spoil." Es. 8:11

This year, the festival of Purim began on the evening of Mon. 9 March 2020 and ended at sunset the following day. Purim commemorates how the biblical Queen Esther rescued the Jewish people from mass slaughter in ancient Persia. In Israel, the festivities involve colorful costumes and the holiday overflows with flamboyant parades and massive celebrations in which young and old, secular and religious, gather together. But this year was different: The Health Ministry confirmed on Tues. 10 March 2020 over a dozen new cases of Israelis who have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, bringing the country's sick count to 75. Close to 100,000 people are under a 14-day home quarantine, with the government on Mon. 9 March 2020 taking the extraordinary step of ordering all citizens returning from abroad, as well as all visitors entering Israel, to join them. Large gatherings are now forbidden. The Health Ministry this week nixed assemblies of more than 100 people – effectively canceling the carnival. Rabbi David Stav said it was decided that Jews do not have to be physically present to listen to the Megillah reading. “Usually if somebody wants to fulfill the commandment of listening to the Megillah reading, he has to hear it directly by ear from the one that is reciting the verses,” Stav said. He emphasized that listening to the Megillah via telephone, radio, online or television was generally not acceptable under strict religious law. Stav wished all Jews in Israel a happy Purim and expressed the hope that the virus would soon be overcome. (VFI)

Lord, we pray that you will heal those who are sick from this virus, that you will help others to follow common-sense rules to avoid this dangerous illness, and that you will keep us all from fear.