News

Ultra-Orthodox Communities are Fighting Israel's Coronavirus Lockdown

“We have the Torah. That’s the religious law. We can’t go by the laws of the state.”
April 25, 2020, 1:05pm

JERUSALEM — Israel’s ultra-Orthodox communities have become hotspots for COVID-19, and in some neighborhoods, residents continue to ignore social distancing guidelines

A number of factors have contributed to the spread of the virus inside these communities including widespread suspicion of the government, adherence to communal prayer and activity, and high population density in these neighborhoods.

“We have the Torah. That’s the religious law. We can’t go by the laws of the state,” said Yoel Kraus, who lives in the Mea Shearim neighborhood with his wife and 17 children

While many have complied with the nationwide lockdown, some communities resisted orders to close religious schools and places of worship. A lack of awareness about the government orders has also contributed to the number of infections. These communities, “are very closed and very isolated. People inside those neighborhoods don’t have phones, they’re not online 24/7,” said police Spokesman Micky Rosenfeld. “They’re completely not connected.

Confrontations between the community and the police have turned violent with residents hurling rocks, food, and metal objects at officers. In one such clash, police responded with a stun grenade which injured a young girl walking with her family. That incident, caught on a nearby security camera, and has drawn widespread condemnation

In spite of escalating tensions, some residents vow to follow religious law over the laws of the state. “We do what God decreed. We don’t budge an inch,” Kraus said.

Cover: A resident of Mea Shearim tears down notices about coronavirus. (Photo: Alexander Gorev/VICE News)

This article originally appeared on VICE US.