Israeli authorities have struggled to enforce compliance in ultra-Orthodox communities. On Sunday, religious demonstrators clashed with police in several cities.
Throughout the pandemic, many major ultra-Orthodox sects have flouted safety regulations, continuing to open schools, pray in synagogues and hold mass weddings in funerals. This has contributed to a disproportionate infection rate, with the ultra-Orthodox community accounting for over one-third of Israel’s coronavirus cases, despite making up just over 10% of the population.
In Jerusalem, police fired tear gas and putrid-smelling water to disperse a crowd of hundreds of ultra-Orthodox residents outside a reopened school. Demonstrators cried “get out of here, Nazis” at officers who were filmed arresting participants.
In the coastal city of Ashdod, police scuffled with dozens of protesters outside an ultra-Orthodox school. In the ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak, large crowds of protesters chased away journalists. A policeman fired into the air as he was surrounded by a crowd of protesters.
Five police officers were wounded in the disputes, and at least four people were arrested, police said.
With the country experiencing a raging coronavirus outbreak, the Israeli government last week extended the country’s third nationwide lockdown until the end of January.
Sunday’s clashes were the latest incident of heightened tensions over 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 pelted the police car with stones and punctured its tires.