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Israel’s Ultra-Orthodox Signing On to Coronavirus Directives (with VIDEO REPORT)
People in protective gear escort the body of a coronavirus victim from a Jerusalem funeral home for burial on April 1. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP via Getty Images)

Israel’s Ultra-Orthodox Signing On to Coronavirus Directives (with VIDEO REPORT)

‘We know everything is from God, and we hope God will help us’

Coronavirus cases are soaring among Israel’s ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities, with some members still resisting government-imposed lockdown orders and social-distancing regulations.

On Wednesday, police arrested a number of residents of religious neighborhoods, one of which, the city of Bnei Brak, just outside Tel Aviv, is being blocked off by squad cars, its residents particularly hard-hit by the pandemic.

Many of Israel’s ultra-Orthodox residents have a deep distrust of state authority. They also avoid advanced means of communication, such as televisions and smartphones – cutting them off from much of the news and public service announcements.

But members of the community are beginning to get the message.

ZAKA, the response organization best known for its quick presence on the scenes of violent attacks and other disasters, has been sending ambulances into these neighborhoods, with a stern message blaring from special loudspeakers.

“People! This is mortal danger! One must maintain a distance of two meters from another person! Be careful to wash your hands well! Leave home only for essential reasons!”

“This is a way for them to understand the situation,” David Rose, international director for ZAKA, told The Media Line, with “very harsh language, of danger….”

And to further convince people to stay home, Rose says ZAKA is maintaining contact with community leaders.

“We’ve been in touch with rabbis, and they recorded a message warning [followers] not to go to synagogues, to stay home and pray alone, and not go outside.”

One of those religious leaders is Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, who, after having taken a hard line against some government directives, issued an edict calling on Jews to pray alone at home.

The message resonated with David Schlessinger, who was out with his son to get groceries in Jerusalem.

“He gave a judgment that you are not allowed to go to shul [synagogue] with 10 people,” he said, referring to Kanievsky’s edict and the Jewish ritual of praying with nine others.

“Thank God people are listening,” he said, “and all synagogues are closed…. We know everything is from God, and we hope God will help us.”

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