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Virus case tallies jump in Bnei Brak, Jerusalem

A total of 730 people in the city now have the virus, though it remains behind Jerusalem as the second largest hotspot. At least some of the increase may be the result of increased testing, after swabbing stations were set up in the city.

In Jerusalem, a total of 780 people have the virus, up from 650 a day earlier.

Much of the increase is seen as emanating from the ultra-Orthodox community.

According to Channel 12 news, double-digit increases were also recorded in several other cities with large ultra-Orthodox populations.

Coronavirus cases in the ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak increased by 27.8 percent overnight Tuesday evening, according to updated figures released by Israel’s Health Ministry on Wednesday, raising fears in this particularly hard-hit community.

The Tel Aviv suburb has become a focal point of the coronavirus outbreak in Israel, and that can clearly be seen by anyone stepping into its deserted streets. On any other day, certainly a week before Passover, Bnei Brak would be crammed with tens of thousands of shoppers. But on this Passover eve, it’s all bitter herbs.

Police wearing masks and gloves pass a man praying in Bnei Brak, March 30, 2020. Credit: Meged Gozani

Police officers stopped cars and questioned those trying to enter the city, even as government officials were still debating whether to impose a total lockdown on it. Bnei Brak Mayor Avraham Rubinstein warned against such a move:

“You can’t build a new prison – Bnei Brak prison. The reality won’t allow it,” he said. “The residents won’t stand for it and this recommendation will only create pushback. You can’t turn Bnei Brak into a ghetto. A closure won’t heal the sickness.”

Police arrested six people in the ultra-Orthodox city-settlement of Modiin Illit on Wednesday for praying at a synagogue in violation of emergency ordinances meant to contain the coronavirus.

The six were members of the Jerusalem Faction, a hardline group known for leading protests against mandatory military service.

The worshipers refused a police order to disperse and scuffled with officers sent to the synagogue, according to Hebrew media reports.

Police were deployed in large numbers Wednesday in the predominantly ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak, where the funeral for the wife of Jerusalem Faction rabbi Tzvi Friedman was held.

Officers reached an agreement with Jerusalem Faction leaders that the funeral for Eliza Friedman would be held in accordance with Health Ministry directives, Channel 12 news reported, and there were no large crowds at the ceremony.

Police, however, continued to maintain a significant presence at the cemetery to prevent any crowds from gathering, the network said.

Following the incident, Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, a prominent leader of the Lithuanian ultra-Orthodox community in Bnei Brak, called on his followers to pray individually.

Kanievsky said that anyone not adhering to the instructions of doctors was a ‘rodef’, or threat to society.

Header: Police officers at a synagogue in the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Mea Shearim in Jerusalem as they close shops and disperse public gatherings for violating emergency directives against the coronavirus, March 30, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)