Photo Credit: Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90
Police in Meah Shearim. March 29, 2020.

The Israeli government is considering placing the ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak under quarantine, Israeli Finance Ministry Director General Shai Babad told the country’s parliament on Sunday.

With police reporting difficulty in enforcing lockdown directives in the city, which has an infection rate higher than the national average, Babad told the Knesset’s Special Committee on Dealing with the Coronavirus, “We are having more than a few problems with ultra-Orthodox society in areas like Bnei Brak.”

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Babad made the comment hours after hundreds of Bnei Brak residents gathered for the burial of Rabbi Tzvi Shenkar, with thousands reportedly attending a funeral procession just before. Videos show hundreds gathering in close proximity to one another, breaking social distancing directives.

Several clashes between residents and police attempting to enforce the lockdown have taken place in ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods in recent weeks.

Last week, Israeli Health Ministry data showed that 24 percent of locally acquired infections have occurred in synagogues, with the next most common places of infection being hotels (15 percent), restaurants (12 percent), supermarkets (seven percent) yeshivas (five percent) and medical clinics (five percent). Educational institutions, old age homes, day cares, mikvehs, election ballot stations, shopping malls, event halls and gyms all fell under five percent.

According to internal Health Ministry data published in Haaretz, infections in Bnei Brak are increasing eightfold every three days, compared to the twofold national average. In Jerusalem, which also has a high ultra-Orthodox population, the cases are quadrupling in the same time period.

The Knesset discussion of a potential full lockdown, said Babad, is centered on “how we could put a closure in place and isolate those areas,” referring to the ultra-Orthodox areas with high infection rates and non-compliance with government orders intended to decrease spread of the outbreak.

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