Israeli police say they had worked out an arrangement with the followers of an ultra-Orthodox rabbi who died this week, for a small funeral amidst rising coronavirus numbers. However, thousands of people turned out in defiance of social distancing rules. Clashes ensued between mourners and police, who tried to disperse the crowd.
Arab News reports that such violations of lockdown rules have angered the broader Israeli public.
The defiance by parts of the ultra-Orthodox community has reportedly put a strain on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s political relationships with religious leaders. Further, Arab News reports, it has triggered resentment from ordinary Israelis who fear for their health and livelihoods.
Media personality Judy Shalom Nir Mozes said, “We’ve been asked to go into this lockdown, with its insane economic cost, because of the increase in coronavirus which is mostly occurring in the ultra-Orthodox sector and in large part because of criminal negligence.” She added, “There are two sets of laws here. One for us and one for them.”
Meanwhile, the ultra-Orthodox claim they are being unfairly targeted, citing the large weekly protests, mainly by secular Israelis, against Netanyahu’s handling of the pandemic. According to Arab News, the Israeli government had only last week placed limits on the size of the protests.
Israel has one of the world’s worst coronavirus outbreaks on a per capita basis. Its ultra-Orthodox community, a mere 10% of the population, accounts for over one-third of the country’s coronavirus cases. In the last week, Israel has seen highs of 9,000 new virus cases a day. The Jewish High Holidays have been blamed for the current spike, seeing that synagogues become filled and large family gatherings are held.
A second nationwide lockdown ahead of the Jewish New Year last month, was largely violated by the ultra-orthodox community, who account for 40 percent of the country’s cases.
Umm Muhammed Umar