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Pandemic-Panicked Politicians Push Pause on Purim Plans, Prohibit Popular Parties, Public Prayers  

Israeli authorities are wary of a renewed rise in cases of the coronavirus as the nation enters Purim weekend, and will celebrate the festive Jewish holiday. The government’s coronavirus cabinet on Wednesday approved a nightly curfew to be enforced through Sunday, banning all parties and mass prayers, staples of the beloved Purim. During the holiday, which commemorates the biblical story of the Jews’ escape from genocide at the hands of Persian King Xerxes, Israeli Jews dress up in lavish costumes and follow the commandment to drink “until they are senseless.” Yet the temporary lockdown isn’t likely to prevent large gatherings among the ultra-Orthodox, who promise to celebrate the holiday regardless of government directives. Israel in recent days has seen a slight rise in its infection rate, which has crept near 1%. Although nearly 35% of all citizens have been fully vaccinated for the virus with the Pfizer shots, last week’s reopening of the country’s school system and business sector has raised alarm among health officials.