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Israel Officially Seals Off Highly Infected Ultra-Orthodox City
A police officer has a few words for an ultra-Orthodox student outside a yeshiva in Bnei Brak on April 2. (Jack Guez/AFP via Getty Images)

Israel Officially Seals Off Highly Infected Ultra-Orthodox City

Israeli authorities on Friday set up roadblocks on all routes leading into and out of Bnei Brak, a primarily ultra-Orthodox enclave just outside Tel Aviv. All entries and exits will be forbidden. The suburb of some 200,000 is believed to be the country’s coronavirus epicenter, with experts saying that as many as a third of its residents are infected, although testing is far from complete. The roadblocks went up as part of an extraordinary measure taken the evening before by Israel’s cabinet. Bnei Brak’s ultra-Orthodox mayor has come under criticism for what many see as a relaxed attitude toward the country’s pandemic restrictions. Large crowds were seen on the streets doing their Passover shopping, and the municipality apparently turned a blind eye to at least one funeral that attracted a crowd estimated at 400. National restrictions also prohibit group prayer and study, and over several days, police arrested dozens overseeing Bnei Brak’s synagogues and yeshivas, or religious study centers. The cabinet made its decision during a conference call, with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in quarantine after his ultra-Orthodox health minister was diagnosed as having been infected – possibly due to attendance at a group prayer session he himself had banned.

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