Israel opens quarantine hotels for ultra-orthodox

Ultra-orthodox Jews with their large families are hard hit by coronavirus; government setting up quarantine hotels to reduce chance they’ll infect family members.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

The government will open more quarantine centers in hotels for ultra-orthodox Jews to try and stop the spread of coronavirus in their communities after it was found they are among the most highly infected social groups, Israeli media reported Monday.

The centers are in addition to those already established around the country for Israelis confirmed as being carriers but who do not need hospitalization.

With hotels and seminary dormitories emptied due to the shutdown of tourism and education, officials realized they could use the buildings to quarantine confirmed coronavirus carriers who might infect family members if they remained at home.

Four hotels will be opened, two in the west of Jeruaslem and two in the predominantly Arab, east side of the city, the city’s Kol Hair newspaper reported.

“The hotels will open in Jerusalem, to all sectors and address the plight of disadvantaged populations and families with children who find it difficult to comply with the isolation guidelines in their homes,” said a joint statement by Interior Minister Arye Deri and Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion.

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On Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tasked Aryeh Deri, leader of the religious Shas Party, to find solutions to help the haredi (ultra-orthodox) and Arab sectors who traditionally have large families to comply with isolation and quarantine regulations.

Health statistics showed haredi Jews are among the most infected sectors of Israeli society.

Haredi leaders complained Sunday that the government ignored their requests for solutions to care for the infected members of their communities. Later that day, Defense Minister Naftali Bennett tweeted that the first quarantine hotel had been opened in the capital that could hold 300 patients.

We have already absorbed 83 patients. We will continue to consider the needs of different populations,” Bennett said.

Police are planning to enforce full closure on areas or neighborhoods with high infection rates, but have not yet received orders to do so, Israel Hayom reported.

Calls for action were prompted by a widely reported funeral Saturday night in Bnei Brak attended by hundreds. Police said they had given permission for the funeral to take place under health restrictions, limiting it to 20 mourners. When hundreds showed up, they chose not to intervene for fear of provoking a confrontation.

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One prominent rabbi accused the media of slurring the entire haredi community in what he branded as fake news.

“It’s one big lie from the media,” Nachum Eisenstein, rabbi of the Ma’alot Dafna neighborhood in Jerusalem, told the Times of Israel. He said claims the haredi communities violated health restrictions were exaggerated, while violations by many secular people congregating on beaches were minimized.

The high infection rates were due to “large families and small apartments, and before the guidelines, people participated in weddings and Purim celebrations” that helped spread infection before restrictions went into place, he said.

Eisenstein said leaders of the ultra-orthodox communities were instructing their followers to abide by the health rules and “here is no synagogue I know that’s open … We even changed the locks at my synagogue in case someone had a key.”

In the U.S., at least 17 people infected with coronavirus from haredi communities died over the weekend, YeshivaWorld reported.