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Ultra-Orthodox “extremists” reopen schools despite lockdown

A number of religious schools have reopened their doors in Israel in the last two days, flouting strict regulations issued under the coronavirus lockdown.

They belong mainly to the “more extreme” communities, with most ultra-Orthodox institutions obeying the rabbis’ directive not to open until an agreement is reached with the Health Ministry regarding an orderly opening outline for Torah schools and yeshivas.

Haaretz has learned that a number of schools opened their doors on Monday and Tuesday in ultra-Orthdox towns: Bnei Brak and Elad in central Israel, and Betar Ilit and Modi’in Ilit, two settlements in the West Bank. These cities also happen to be coronavirus hot spots.

Police intervened in some of the schools, which were compelled to interrupt classes and were issued with fines. The directors of two schools in Betar Ilit were summoned for questioning by the police on suspicion of violating the ban on opening educational institutions.

Some members of Israel’s ultra-Orthodox communities have clashed with authorities in recent weeks over the imposition of nationwide lockdown to slow the second wave of the coronavirus, which coincided with the Jewish High Holy Days.

Despite being the most affected segment of the population, the very observant community has found it difficult to give up on its communal routines. Some criticism has been levied at the Israeli government for not enforcing the lockdown rules on the community, despite rising infections.

Israel is currently considering reopening preschools only, starting Sunday, October 8.