(JTA) — Israeli security forces cordoned off the city of Bnei Brak, near Tel Aviv, and are enforcing a total lockdown there.
At least a third of the city’s heavily haredi Orthodox population has the coronavirus, according to government estimates. On Thursday, the Israeli government decided for the first time since the coronavirus crisis began to declare an Israeli city a “restricted area” and ordered Border Police and army troops to join police in making sure no one leaves or enters Bnei Brak without permission.
Israel went into lockdown last week, wherein residents are not permitted to congregate and are confined to their homes or a 300-foot radius of their homes. Over the past week, multiple infractions have been recorded in Bnei Brak, including by haredi Jews who prayed together.
Bnei Brak Deputy Mayor Gedaluahu Ben Shimon criticized the way in which his city, which has a population of nearly 200,000, has been cordoned off. Ben Shimon told Israel Hayom that simply preventing people from moving around in his central Israeli city will not prevent a humanitarian disaster.
“This is a half-measure that increases the risk of infection and could lead to loss of life,” he said, arguing that the army should not only seal off Bnei Brak but also provide its residents with food and medication. “For older people, this is a death trap.”
On Thursday, the number of people who died of the virus in Israel was 36, with another 108 in critical condition.