(JTA) — Two major Israeli haredi Orthodox rabbis said everyone aged 12 and over should be vaccinated against the coronavirus, according to The Jerusalem Post.
Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, the influential leader known as the “prince of Torah,” and Rabbi Gershon Edelstein approved the announcement in a message printed by Kanievsky’s personal physician, Meshulam Hart, in Yated Neeman, an Israeli haredi Orthodox newspaper. The announcement comes as Israel struggles with an increase in coronavirus cases as a result of the more contagious Delta variant.
The rabbis said everyone should be vaccinated both to prevent further deaths from the virus and to prevent additional closures of yeshivas by the government.
Though Kanievsky has consistently come out in favor of the vaccines, his varying directives to Israel’s haredi school system during the height of the pandemic made him a polarizing figure. At times, Kanievsky said the yeshivas should not close even as government officials ordered all schools shut to slow the spread of the virus. Kanievsky was even depicted on Eretz Nehederet, an Israeli sketch comedy show, as the real prime minister rather than the then-prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.
The haredi Orthodox community in Israel was among the hardest hit by the virus in the country, with one in 73 haredi Israelis over age 65 dying from the coronavirus during the first year of the pandemic, according to one report.
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