Israel weighs ultra-Orthodox lockdown

An ultra-Orthodox Jewish man is questioned by police in the Tel Aviv suburb of Bnei Brak.
An ultra-Orthodox Jewish man is questioned by police in the Tel Aviv suburb of Bnei Brak.

Israeli authorities are considering imposing a full lockdown on the crowded ultra-Orthodox Tel Aviv suburb of Bnei Brak, which has become one of the country's hotspots for the coronavirus.

Some 730 people in the suburb of roughly 200,000 have been infected with the coronavirus, according to the Health Ministry on Wednesday, a jump of 159 cases from the previous day.

Bnei Brak has the second-highest number of infections in the country, after Jerusalem.

According to Israeli media, police have erected roadblocks at the suburb's entrances, and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan told Army Radio that police were closely enforcing the emergency orders.

Bnei Brak's mayor, who's in self-isolation, warned that authorities must not turn the suburb into "a ghetto," according to media reports.

Other ultra-Orthodox neighbourhoods, such as Jerusalem's Meah She'arim, have similarly seen an increased police presence - as well as a swelling in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases.

Authorities are concerned that members of the ultra-Orthodox community are continuing to gather in spite of strict lockdown rules imposed by the government, including a ban on prayers in public.

In the latest violation, some 400 attended a rabbi's funeral in Bnei Brak late on Saturday. Channel 12 reported that police are in touch with the community to prevent another such gathering at an upcoming funeral, which caps participation at 20 people under current rules.

More than 1 million of the country's population of 9 million are ultra-Orthodox. Most have no access to the internet and TV for ideological reasons, making it hard to stay on top of the guidelines.

Australian Associated Press