COVID lockdown violations plague ultra-Orthodox community over Tu Bishvat

Infection rates in the ultra-Orthodox community remain more than double that of the general population.

ULTRA-ORTHODOX men – one masked, one not – are seen in the haredi enclave of Borough Park in Brooklyn, New York, on October 6.  (photo credit: CARLO ALLEGRI/REUTERS)
ULTRA-ORTHODOX men – one masked, one not – are seen in the haredi enclave of Borough Park in Brooklyn, New York, on October 6.
(photo credit: CARLO ALLEGRI/REUTERS)
Several large-scale violations of the COVID-19 lockdown took place in the ultra-Orthodox community over the holiday of Tu Bishvat on Wednesday and Thursday, as infection rates in the sector remain double that of the general population.
On Wednesday night, the grandchildren of the grand rabbis of the Sanz and Toldot Aharon Hassidic sects got married in Netanya at the Sanz Hassidic headquarters, with hundreds of hassidim in attendance.
An invitation was issued stipulating that the celebration would be held in a reduced format, but pictures from the event that appeared on social media showed hundreds in attendance with no masks at all.
Other photographs also revealed heavily attended Tu Bishvat “tisch” celebrations on Wednesday night in several hassidic courts, including the Nadvorna and Lelov communities.
According to figures released by the Health Ministry on Thursday, infection rates in the ultra-Orthodox community remain more than double that of the general population, with the rate of positive COVID-19 tests in the sector standing at 20.2%, compared with 9.3% for all sectors.
Infections in the ultra-Orthodox community also account for 26% of all COVID-19 cases, while it comprises just 12% of the general population.
The number of new COVID-19 infections per 10,000 citizens among the ultra-Orthodox is on a downward trend, but also remains double that of the general population.
Outside the Belz Hassidic world center on Thursday afternoon in Kiryat Belz, Jerusalem, The Jerusalem Post witnessed dozens, if not hundreds, of people entering the massive complex.
Three buses full of hassidic families arrived during the course of approximately 30 minutes along with several minivans, while many of the passengers came with large suitcases indicating that they were from outside of Jerusalem.
There was no police presence at all in the area.
According to one source who spoke with the Post on condition of anonymity, members of the Belz community from Haifa, Jerusalem, Ashdod and Bnei Barak were traveling to Jerusalem for the event.
Another source confirmed that news of the tisch had been spread by word of mouth, as it has been for several such celebrations and religious ceremonies, to avoid making the event public.
A Belz representative denied that a tisch had taken place, but did not answer why busloads of hassidim had arrived at the hassidic community’s headquarters.
The police said in response that "a large police force was dispatched to the Belz center because of reports that there was an illegal gathering there. After police forces entered, it became clear that there was no violation of the coronavirus regulations, and the police left. "
Videos did emerge later in the evening of police officers who had arrived outside the Belz headquarters.

 
On Wednesday, the police media relations department issued a statement saying that it had warned the hassidic courts against holding tisch celebrations.