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Report: Rivlin attended funeral that violated coronavirus restrictions

Burial of president’s brother-in-law several weeks ago was supposed to have 20-person limit; at least 100 said to have participated

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Illustrative: President Reuven Rivlin, attends a funeral at Givat Shaul cemetery in Jerusalem, on December 31, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Illustrative: President Reuven Rivlin, attends a funeral at Givat Shaul cemetery in Jerusalem, on December 31, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

President Reuven Rivlin attended a funeral that violated Health Ministry orders limiting the size of public gatherings due to the coronavirus outbreak, Army Radio reported Wednesday.

The funeral, for one of Rivlin’s brothers-in-law, was held several weeks ago, before the start of an ongoing virus lockdown.

However, sources told the station that over 100 people were at the funeral, even though at the time public gatherings were limited to no more than 20 outdoors or 10 indoors.

Photos from the funeral showed Rivlin surrounded by some 40 people, according to the station.

Rivlin’s office said in a response to the report that the president had coordinated his participation on the understanding that the event would keep to the ordered limits.

According to the report, the family had made efforts to keep numbers down but many more people arrived than were expected.

The revelation of the infraction came at a time of harsh criticism of the ultra-Orthodox community, following several recent funerals of senior rabbis who died of COVID-19 that were packed by thousands of their followers.

Police were also criticized for not enforcing lockdown measures or fining participants at the funerals. The force defended its restraint, saying attempts at enforcement would have been met with violent resistance leading to numerous injuries.

Thousands attend the funeral of an ultra-Orthodox rabbi in Jerusalem, January 31, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Rivlin has been caught before breaking official guidelines during the virus outbreak. Last April he celebrated Passover with one of his daughters, despite a strict curfew on the country at the time aimed at preventing family gatherings. The president later profusely apologized for the violation.

Since the start of the virus outbreak in the country early last year, Israel has had three lockdowns, the last of which began over a month ago and though partially eased on Sunday, continues to keep many businesses and most of the education system shuttered. The latter is set to partially reopen Thursday.

A string of public figures has been accused of disregarding the rules enforced on the general public throughout the pandemic, which critics say has contributed to a lack of public trust and uneven compliance with lockdown regulations.

Among them were government ministers, the head of the Shin Bet security service, and the prime minister’s wife Sarah Netanyahu.

Two ministers were diagnosed with COVID-19 after attending events that violated restrictions.

Since the start of the outbreak in Israel, 706,416 people have tested positive in the country for the coronavirus, according to Health Ministry figures released Wednesday. There have been 5,233 deaths from COVID-19.

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