Rabbi Litzman: Closing Off Just Chareidi Neighborhoods ‘Defames and Discriminates’

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A checkpoint at the entrance to Yerushalayim’s Bayit Vegan neighborhood Sunday. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

As a major police blockade went into effect in Yerushalayim Sunday, Health Minister Rabbi Yaakov Litzman reiterated his opposition to closing off chareidi neighborhoods and cities, arguing that criteria for closure should be based not on who lives there, but how many people had contracted the coronavirus. “There should be clear and equal criteria for all cities,” he said during a Cabinet discussion of the new limitations. “The decision to close off chareidi areas alone is mistaken and it defames an entire group.”

Police set up approximately 100 checkpoints around Yerushalayim Sunday as they put into effect the Cabinet decision from Motzoei Shabbos to close off Chareidi neighborhoods in the city. The closure prevents movement at any time (except for major needs, like hospital visits) between 17 neighborhoods of the city, nearly all of them chareidi. Police are also using drones and other methods to ensure that residents of the neighborhoods do not attempt to leave. Over 1,000 police and 200 IDF soldiers are enforcing the closure.

The neighborhoods that are closed off include Ramot, Ramat Shlomo, Neve Yaakov, Har Nof, Givat Shaul, Kiryat Moshe, part of Rechavia, Nahalaot, Mekor Baruch, Romema, Ezrat Torah, Geula, Meah Shearim, Beit Yisrael, Musrara, Bayit Vegan and Givat Mordechai. No Arab neighborhoods are included.

Although officials said that residents of chareidi areas had “absorbed the lesson” and were strictly keeping to social distancing and quarantine rules, there is a rising tide of dissatisfaction in the community with the closures aimed specifically at chareidi areas. In an open letter to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, an editorial in the Hebrew language-edition of Hamodia said that “residents of Bnei Brak,” who have been under a closure since erev Pesach, “are equal citizens. They are not lab rats, nor test animals. They are not terrorists, and they did not agree to research subjects. Your job is not to discuss how to keep them imprisoned, but to provide them with answers – not with a collective punishment.”

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