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World News

Screens and scripture: An Israeli seminary fights coronavirus

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SDEROT, Israel (Reuters) - Cocooned among plastic-sheeted cubicles stacked high with sacred books, Jewish seminary students have found a way to keep their studies in Israel going safely amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The 600 students of the Max and Ruth Schwartz Hesder Yeshiva in Sderot devote their time to religious studies and, like many of their peers, cherish the rabbinical tradition of “Hevruta”, or learning in pairs.

But at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, that practice is virtually impossible to combine with social distancing, as are the daily group prayers and rabbinical lectures.

“We knew that we had to find some way of restoring the beautiful, strong cacophony of Torah (Bible), learning, prayer, to somehow bring that back to the Max and Ruth Schwartz Hesder Yeshiva in Sderot,” said the seminary’s head, Rabbi Duv Fendel.

Inspiration came from countries where pupils’ desks have been fitted with plastic dividers to stave off infection.

“It’s something phenomenal, because it allows the younger to learn with the older boys and it allows the rabbis, even though they’re not in the same capsule, to be able to talk and discuss Torah topics in depth,” said Fendel.

Israel - population nine million - has confirmed more than 100,000 COVID-19 cases in total and 867 deaths.

Reporting by Ronen Zvulun; Writing by Maayan Lubell; Editing by Dan Williams and Giles Elgood

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