With the country under lockdown to stem the pandemic, the Western Wall hosted just 200 worshipers on Saturday night for the penitential pre-Yom Kippur prayers, a ritual that usually draws hundreds of thousands.
The selihot prayers are traditionally said in the days leading up to the High Holidays. The Saturday night service was the last before the Day of Atonement, which begins on Sunday night and ends Monday night.
Under the tightened lockdown rules, which went into effect on Friday afternoon, only residents of Jerusalem’s Old City who live within a kilometer were permitted to visit the Western Wall, as well as the country’s chief rabbis.
The Kan public broadcaster, which streamed the service live, said that in the absence of tourists and pilgrims, the Old City’s street lights were shut off.
Some critics angered by the government’s closure rules juxtaposed images of the empty Western Wall plaza alongside the thousands of protesters gathered outside the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem, who were allowed to rally after lawmakers on Friday failed to approve regulations limiting protests.
In a rebuke of the protesters, who are rallying against his corruption cases and handling of the pandemic, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also shared the composite photo, writing: “Dear citizens of Israel, With all of the difficulty it entails, I very much appreciate the cooperation of most citizens of Israel. We must stop the chains of infection, heed the instructions for the sake of all of our lives.”
אזרחי ישראל היקרים,עם כל הקושי שבדבר אני מאוד מעריך את שיתוף הפעולה של רוב אזרחי ישראל. חייבים לעצור את שרשרת ההדבקה, שמרו על ההנחיות למען חיי כולנו.
The government introduced tighter lockdown rules last week as the number of daily virus cases soared, reaching over 8,000 on Friday.