Latest work for Vice News Tonight from Jerusalem
Updated: Aug 24, 2021
We headed out to the Ultra Orthodox neighbourhood of Mea Shearim in Jerusalem,Israel to find out why they are resisting the #Coronavirus quarantine emergency guidelines.
JERUSALEM — Israel’s ultra-Orthodox communities have become hotspots for COVID-19, and in some neighbourhoods, residents continue to ignore social distancing guidelines.
A number of factors have contributed to the spread of the virus inside these communities, including widespread suspicion of the government, adherence to communal prayer and activity, and high population density in these neighbourhoods.
“We have the Torah. That’s the religious law. We can’t go by the laws of the state,” said Yoel Kraus, who lives in the Mea Shearim neighbourhood with his wife and 17 children.
While many have complied with the nationwide lockdown, some communities resisted orders to close religious schools and places of worship. A lack of awareness about the government orders has also contributed to the number of infections. These communities “are very closed and very isolated. People inside those neighbourhoods don’t have phones, they’re not online 24/7,” said police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld. “They’re completely not connected."
Confrontations between the community and the police have turned violent, with residents hurling rocks, food, and metal objects at officers. In one such clash, police responded with a stun grenade, which injured a young girl walking with her family. That incident, caught on a nearby security camera, has drawn widespread condemnation
In spite of escalating tensions, some residents vow to follow religious law over the laws of the state. “We do what God decreed. We don’t budge an inch,” Kraus said.
By Oren Rosenfeld/Vice News Tonight