Israeli health minister urges quarantine on ultra-Orthodox city

Israel's Heath Ministry has urged Netanyahu to call for a lockdown in an ultra-Orthodox city overwhelmed by COVID-19.

al-monitor Israeli police set up coronavirus checkpoints at the entrance to the Ultra-Orthodox Jewish city of Bnei Brak, Israel, March 31, 2020. Photo by Gili Yaari/NurPhoto via Getty Images.

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covid-19, pandemic, lockdown, quarantine, coronavirus, israeli police, israeli politics, ultra-orthodox, bnei brak

Apr 1, 2020

Israel’s top health authority has urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to impose a lockdown on an ultra-Orthodox city overwhelmed by the fast-spreading novel coronavirus

Bnei Brak, east of Tel Aviv, has the second-highest rate of infections in the country, trailing only the capital Jerusalem. Positive tests for the virus in Bnei Brak jumped by 27.8% overnight Tuesday, according to the latest figures from Israel's Health Ministry. 

Of the Bnei Brak residents screened for the virus, 34% tested positive, compared to 10% in Jerusalem and 6% in Tel Aviv, according to government data.

"I proposed to the prime minister and interior minister to put Bnei Brak on lockdown," said Health Minister Yaakov Litzman. "The situation there is horrible. Every day we stall, we put lives at risk."

According to a report from Channel 12 News, Litzman wants the police to regulate movement in and out of Bnei Brak and for the authorities to provide food and other essential deliveries to residents.

The ultra-Orthodox community across Israel has drawn fire for flouting government restrictions meant to curb the pandemic. Although it accounts for just 12% of the population, more than 50% of the coronavirus patients in the hospitals around the country are ultra-Orthodox

The uptick in cases in Bnei Brak comes days after a video surfaced showing hundreds of residents crammed together at a late night funeral procession. News reports have documented similar incidents elsewhere in Israel. 

Despite restrictions limiting gatherings to 10 people, four attendees were arrested after an ultra-Orthodox wedding in Bet Shemesh near Jerusalem drew 150 guests. A video aired by Channel 12 showed dozens of worshippers holding hands and dancing in Jerusalem.

Mayor Avraham Rubinstein called on residents Friday to “wake up” to the dangers of the coronavirus, reported the Times of Israel.