Deri announces new yeshiva for students infected with virus

Religious seminary will reportedly take 800 students from all streams of ultra-Orthodoxy, to open when restrictions ease; interior minister says ‘Torah won’t stop for coronavirus’

Shas party leader Aryeh Deri arrives at the Knesset for a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, March 3, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Shas party leader Aryeh Deri arrives at the Knesset for a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, March 3, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri on Sunday announced the founding of a religious seminary for students who have been infected with the coronavirus.

“We decided to set up a new yeshiva called Keter Torah, which will be in Sde Hemed,” Deri told a group of religious reporters. “It will bring together all the yeshiva students sick with the coronavirus.”

Keter in Hebrew means “crown”; so does corona, from the Latin.

Deri was apparently referring to the Sde Hemed moshav in central Israel. He did  not say whether the leadership or residents of the proposed location had been consulted.

In addition, Deri did not mention whether there would be medical staff at the institution, or under whose auspices it would operate.

Israeli police officers remove ultra-Orthodox men from the Ponevezh Yeshiva in Bnei Brak, as part of an effort to enforce a lockdown in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, on April 2, 2020. (Flash90)

“The voice of the Torah will not stop for a moment, even during the [time of the] coronavirus,” Deri said, according to the Behadrei Haredim website.

According to the website, the Israel Defense Forces and Defense Ministry have already begun preparations for the seminary.

A reporter from Kikar Shabbat tweeted that the religious seminary will be able to take 800 students from all different streams of ultra-Orthodox Judaism. Currently students tend to study within their own sectarian groups.

The students will reportedly be taught by teachers who have also been infected with the coronavirus, though the yeshiva will not be opened until there is an easing of restrictions on gatherings and educational facilities.

The government last month shut down all educational institutions, regardless of the number of children per classroom, among them daycare centers — including home daycares — special education, youth movements, and after-school programs.

Illustrative — A lesson at Ateret Yisrael Yeshiva in Jerusalem, November 19, 2019 (Aharon Krohn/Flash90)

Initially, some ultra-Orthodox leaders defied Health Ministry directives designed to contain the virus and said Haredi schools would remain open, insisting that Torah study continue uninterrupted.

Last month, Deri, who leads the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, was reportedly appointed by the cabinet as the government point man on the issue of encouraging stricter adherence to virus-related restrictions in the ultra-Orthodox community.

According to Health Ministry data, about 75 percent of virus infections in Jerusalem have occurred in ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods.

On Sunday afternoon several Jerusalem neighborhoods with high coronavirus rates went into lockdown.

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men pray outside a closed yeshiva in the town of Bnei Brak on March 26, 2020 (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

The mainly ultra-Orthodox Bnei Brak, which has the highest per capita rate of infection, has also been closed off from the rest of the country. On Friday restrictions were eased somewhat, with residents allowed to travel outside the city for work and some other essential needs.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Deri were reported to engage in a heated argument Thursday night during which Deri said he felt that the Health Ministry was “quick on the trigger” when it came to imposing restrictions on Haredi communities.

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