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Israel: Ultra-Orthodox Jews reject Covid-19 lockdown 

A health officer checks a citizen in ambulance as a precaution against coronavirus (Covid-19) in Tel Aviv, Israel on 3 April 2020 [Nir Keidar/Anadolu Agency]
A health officer checks a citizen in an ambulance as a precaution against the coronavirus (Covid-19) in Tel Aviv on 3 April 2020 [Nir Keidar/Anadolu Agency]

Ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel have rejected full lockdown regulations, pushing the government to a lower danger threshold and allow partial closures, Arab48.com reported on Sunday.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his cabinet announced on Saturday that a curfew was to start in 40 “red” cities in Israel, in addition to closing schools and limiting gatherings in those areas.

According to Haaretz, after protests by rabbis Netanyahu told ultra-Orthodox ministers, including Interior Minister Arye Dery and Yaakov Litzman, on Sunday that synagogues will remain open during the upcoming Jewish holidays even if a lockdown is imposed.

Deputy Health Minister Yoav Kish told Kan Radio that all sections of the population have their own views and put pressure on elected officials. “Sure, we consider our Haredi partners,” he said. “Every party has its own constituency and we have to pay the price for ours without breaching the health balance.”

So-called “red” cities, Kish added, would not have a full lockdown. “We changed the night lockdown and we have to cooperate with the population in order to defeat the virus.”

READ: Israeli rights group calls on Israel to stop punishing measures against Gaza

Commenting on surrendering to Haredi pressure, Meretz Chairwoman Tamar Zandberg said that this is “much more” than political. “The farce of the ‘red’ cities is further proof that a prime minister accused of bribery is incapable of fulfilling his role… Netanyahu needs this alliance [with the ultra-Orthodox parties] to gain immunity from justice, and we will all pay the price in health and life.”

The Former Chairman of the Coronavirus Committee and Yesh Atid MK Ofer Shelah pointed out that, “The worst thing is the hesitation, indecision and action out of political pressure that characterises Netanyahu’s default government in every matter, and in this matter as well.”

Meanwhile, Haaretz reported Avigdor Lieberman, the head of Yisrael Beiteinu party, saying that Israelis are “all hostages” before adding, “Due to the anger of the ultra-Orthodox parties, Netanyahu’s alternative will still be a general closure [during the holidays]. Netanyahu is not afraid of God but of his representatives in the Knesset.”

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