City neighboring corona-struck Bnei Brak ordered to take down fencing

The Interior Ministry orders Ramat Gan’s mayor to remove fences he put up, while he says he made the decision on his own after consulting the police.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

The Ramat Gan municipality put up fences Monday morning to block residents from neighboring Bnei Brak from walking over, due to the high percentage of coronavirus victims in the ultra-Orthodox, or haredi, city. However, just before noon, the director-general of the Interior Ministry ordered the mayor to take them down.

The unilateral move was seen in Bnei Brak as adding insult to injury, as the city has been under total lockdown and placed under de facto IDF control in an effort to contain the spread of the deadly pandemic. Non-residents cannot enter, and residents are not permitted to leave except for special circumstances.

“They’ve put us in something like a ghetto,” residents said angrily according to a Ynet report. “Who’s ever heard of such a thing, that a mayor decides that he’s imprisoning people from the neighboring city? On whose authority is he doing such a thing?”

The Bnei Brak municipality then sent employees to start taking down the fences themselves.

Mayor Carmel Shama-Hacohen had been pressing for a closure of Bnei Brak since last week. Some of his voters had even demanded that a wall be built to protect them from their neighbors. The city has the highest percentage of coronavirus cases in the country as it was late to abide by guidelines put out by the health ministry.

Ramat Gan’s city council put out a statement that the fences were necessary because “’soft’ barriers by mobile barricades and signage were violated and roughly trampled.” Until the police manned all the points of entry, it said, “the responsibility for public health leads [us] to the conclusion that it is correct to close off every breach until the lockdown is over.”

The police, meanwhile, said that there was no shortage of manpower, that they had not been informed of the decision to block the passageways, and that they did not agree to it.

According to Ynet, Shama-Hacohen said he decided to remove the newly built fences himself after consulting the police commander of the region and the IDF officer who is in de facto control of Bnei Brak, Gen. (res.) Roni Numa.

“I explained to them that the loopholes being taken advantage of for breaching the quarantine is a red line for us. Both of them promised that the issue would be dealt with immediately, so I instructed the security department to take down the fences,” the mayor said.