In Brief

Israel’s ultra-Orthodox ‘ignoring coronavirus measures’

Government considers quarantining devout neighbourhoods as infection rate soars

Israeli officials are considering blockading communities of ultra-Orthodox Jews who are failing to comply with efforts to contain the coronavirus.

Infection rates in ultra-Orthodox communities are significantly higher than the rest of Israel, Haaretz reports, with the country yesterday confirming a total of 4,831 cases and 17 deaths.

In the Tel Aviv suburb of Bnei Brak, where 95% of the residents are ultra-Orthodox, The New York Times reports that the number of confirmed cases spiked from 267 on Friday to 571. The total was nearly that of Jerusalem, whose population is four times bigger.

The paper adds that despite making up only 12% of Israel’s population, the ultra-Orthodox account for 40 to 60% of the coronavirus patients at four major hospitals. 

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“The seriousness of the situation seems yet to have fully penetrated the ultra-Orthodox community,” says CNN, describing it as the “front line” in the battle against the outbreak.

A recent ultra-Orthodox wedding in Bet Shemesh, near Jerusalem, attracted a crowd of 150, despite strict government restrictions that limited weddings to no more than 10 people, according to The Times of Israel.

The paper also points to a funeral procession in the ultra-Orthodox town of Bnei Brak, which saw hundreds of mourners packed tightly on the streets with no heed paid to social distancing.

Rabbi Nachum Eisenstein claimed the trend of ultra-Orthodox communities flouting coronavirus rules is being exaggerated, while violations by secular Jews, such as beachgoers, are being downplayed. “It’s one big lie from the media,” the Eisenstein told The Times of Israel. 

However, some in the community are instructing their followers to take the pandemic more seriously. 

Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky declared that anyone who doesn't obey the instructions of the Ministry of Health should be turned over to police, according to the Jerusalem Post.

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