Jews told not to kiss Western Wall amid coronavirus fears

Adding to measures religious authorities are taking to stop the spread of coronavirus, the chief rabbi of Jerusalem said Jewish believers should refrain from kissing the Western Wall in Israel.

“Do not kiss the Western Wall stones,” Shmuel Rabinowitz, the site’s rabbi, said in a statement on Monday.

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Worshippers should maintain “proper distance” between one another and “abide by required hygiene practices,” Rabinowitz added.

Ultra Orthodox Jews pray at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, Sunday, March 15, 2020. Israel imposed sweeping travel and quarantine measures more than a week ago but has seen its number of confirmed coronavirus cases double in recent days, to around 200. On Saturday, the government said restaurants, malls, cinemas, gyms and daycare centers would close. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)

Ultra Orthodox Jews pray at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, Sunday, March 15, 2020. Israel imposed sweeping travel and quarantine measures more than a week ago but has seen its number of confirmed coronavirus cases double in recent days, to around 200. On Saturday, the government said restaurants, malls, cinemas, gyms and daycare centers would close. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)

This comes a week after Israel’s Chief Rabbinate urged believers to stay away from the Western Wall, but some are still coming to the holiest place where Jews are allowed to pray in the Holy Land.

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Jews gather at the Western Wall, often putting their written prayers in the cracks between stones, and while it is not a requirement, many devout believers kiss the wall as a show of reverence to God.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that the government shut down restaurants, cafes and movie theaters starting Sunday morning and last week announced that public gatherings were limited to 100 people.

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The virus has spread to more than 100 countries, infected more than 170,000 people worldwide and killed more than 6,500.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover from the new virus.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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