Israeli ultra-Orthodox conflict with police over college closures | Coronavirus pandemic Information
The clashes came as authorities struggled to enforce COVID restrictions in Israeli religious communities.
Ultra-Orthodox protesters have clashed with Israeli police in two major cities as authorities faced new difficulties in enforcing coronavirus restrictions across the country’s religious communities.
Sunday’s clashes occurred in Jerusalem and Ashdod when police tried to close down religious schools that had opened in violation of lockdown orders.
During the pandemic, many large ultra-Orthodox Jewish sects broke security regulations, continued to open schools, prayed in synagogues, and held mass weddings and funerals.
This has contributed to a disproportionate rate of infection, with the ultra-Orthodox community accounting for more than a third of Israeli coronavirus cases, despite making up just over 10 percent of the population.
In Jerusalem, police fired tear gas and foul-smelling water to scatter hundreds of ultra-Orthodox residents in front of a reopened school.
Protesters shouted, “Get out, Nazis” at officers filmed as they arrested participants. In the coastal city of Ashdod, police rioted with dozens of demonstrators in front of an ultra-Orthodox school.
Five police officers were wounded in the dispute and at least four people were arrested, police said.
Al Jazeera’s Harry Fawcett, who reports from West Jerusalem, said that anger among many Israelis at ultra-Orthodox people who violate COVID restrictions has increased “given the impact that the rapid spread of the virus in these communities is having on the national health system and health had on the national economy ”.
“[But Prime Minister] At the same time, Benjamin Netanyahu relies on ultra-Orthodox political parties to support his ruling coalition – so he had to strike a good balance, ”said Fawcett.
“This is not only taking place in the streets, it is a serious political problem for the Israeli Prime Minister,” he added.
Ban on passenger flights
After the country experienced a furious coronavirus outbreak, the Israeli government extended the third nationwide lockdown to the end of January last week.
Meanwhile, Israel announced that it would ban passenger flights in and out of the country for a week starting Monday evening in an attempt to stop the spread of the disease.
“With a few rare exceptions, we are hermetically sealing the sky to prevent the virus variants from entering and to ensure that we continue our vaccination campaign quickly,” Netanyahu said in public statements at the start of a cabinet meeting on Sunday.
The ban will go into effect from 12 noon (22:00 GMT) on Monday and will last until the end of January, a statement from Netanyahu’s office said.
Israel’s Ministry of Health has recorded more than 595,000 cases of the virus since the pandemic began and 4,361 deaths.
New cases of the disease continue to rise despite the country’s massive vaccination campaign.
The clashes on Sunday were the most recent incident of heightened tension over the enforcement of lockdown rules in ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods in Israel.
On Friday, ultra-Orthodox Israelis attacked a police vehicle in the city of Bnei Brak outside Tel Aviv. A crowd threw down the police car with stones and stabbed the tires.