Ultra-Orthodox Jewish areas in Israel have become COVID-19 hot-spots as residents ignore stay-at-home orders and bans on gatherings.
For the last several days, Israeli police have been cracking down on these areas. Police have carried out raids on synagogues and helicopters have flown over several of the small communities where Israel has seen some of its worst rates of infection.
Government officials have said that for the most part, members of many ultra-Orthodox, or Haredi, communities complied with restrictions on gatherings imposed nationwide in Israel in mid-March.
But some sects have ignored the restrictions, and not just in Israel. Isolated ultra-Orthodox communities in New York, New Jersey and London have likewise proven to be virus hot-spots.
The situation in Israel has culminated today in police setting up roadblocks around Bnei Brak, an ultra-Orthodox Jewish city where residents have denied all government orders to stay home.
To understand the scope of the problem in Bnei Brak, this should help: the population is 195,000 people. As of today they had 1,061 registered cases of the virus, according to Israel's Health Ministry. Jerusalem, on the other hand, is more than four times the size of Bnei Brak, and only has a few more registered cases, with 1,132.
So, as a percentage of population, Bnei Brak is in a much more severe situation due to its residents ignoring the government's orders to shelter-in-place.
Yesterday, the Israeli Parliament heard from Ran Saar, who runs one of the country's leading healthcare providers. He told the parliament on Thursday that he estimated up to 38% of the city’s residents could be infected.
If true, that means that there could be more than 74,000 people infected.
Like with other communities, governments, and religious groups, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread worldwide, we keep seeing multitudes of people willing to risk countless human lives because of their faith. Ancient superstition continues to trump common sense, basic decency, and the value of life.
It really is maddening.