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Israel Prepares for High Holy Days

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Expectations of high synagogue attendance, intensified security precautions and a soaring price index mark Israel’s preparations for the High Holiday season that begins tonight. Attendance at synagogues has been rising since the Yom Kippur War and the number of worshippers this year will be increased by the influx of tourists.

The main synagogues are installing more seats, collecting more prayer books and engaging more readers. Some schools are being converted to ad hoc synagogues and most hotels will have their own minyans and are trying to hire prominent cantors to attract guests. In this they must compete with far-off congregations in the United States, Latin America, South Africa and Australia that engage the services of Israeli cantors for the holiday season.

Israelis were reminded of the approaching Holy Days each morning during the past week when shofars sounded to summon the pious to prayer. The shofar in ancient times, was also a warning of enemy attack and this is uppermost in the minds of those responsible for civil defense.

Soldiers, police and border police have been alerted against possible terrorist incursions. Beefed up civil guards will patrol the streets of all cities and towns during the holidays. The rabbis of Tel Aviv have given permission for armed guards to participate in services. Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren has invited the civil guard commander, Benni Raz, to deliver a sermon from his pulpit on the importance of the civil guard.

Only the ultra-Orthodox have refused to permit armed guards at their services. They say that if it was necessary to carry arms, their learned sages would have told them so.

Meanwhile, Israeli housewives faced their most expensive holiday. The prices of meat, poultry, fruits, vegetables and non-alcoholic beverages were nearly 70 percent higher than last year, due in part to the removal of government price supports and partly to world-wide inflation.

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