Israel’s Sephardi Chief Rabbi has called on people to leave their phones switched on over shabbat so they can receive coronavirus test results.
In a letter to Israeli Health Minister Yaakov Litzman, Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef said that “[t]here is no doubt that all those tested for coronavirus have to have a phone on during Shabbat so [the Health Ministry] will be able to update him on his results and tell him where to evacuate.
“Even those who did not get tested should leave his phone on, so he would be able to be briefed in case it is discovered that he was near a confirmed carrier.”
It comes as the Israeli Health Ministry sent out its first batch of text messages to people identified through tracking mobile data as having come into contact with a person infected with coronavirus, following measures implemented by the Israeli government.
The government also announced on Wednesday that it was closing Israel's borders to all foreign nationals, even if they do have a place to self-isolate.
The chief rabbi’s phone ruling is based on the Jewish legal principle that saving a life — or pikuah nefesh — trumps nearly all other religious requirements.
According to the Times of Israel, the Israeli Health Ministry welcomed the ruling, saying the importance of a senior rabbi weighing in on the matter “speaks for itself and shows that an emergency requires accelerated activity lest — heaven forbid — a calamity occur.”
Observant Jews tend not to use electronic items over the Jewish day of rest.
Rabbi Yosef also ruled that synagogues in hospitals should be closed to maintain social distancing.