Chareidi Cities See ‘Back-to-School’ Infection Surge

(Israel Hayom) -
Chareidi kids seen the first day of school at a Talmud Torah in the Neve Yaakov neighborhood of Yerushalayim, Aug. 9. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The chareidi sector has seen a significant spike in infections in recent days after it initially appeared the fourth wave of the coronavirus pandemic had largely passed over the country’s chareidi cities.

As of Sunday morning, all chareidi cities in Israel were designated as “red,” except for Beitar Ilit, which is designated “orange.” Some of the cities are atop the nationwide list of places with the most diagnosed cases. It seems that the new spike began with the opening of the school year in the chareidi schools, on Rosh Chodesh Elul, some two weeks ago.

The percentage of positive tests in the chareidi sector is relatively high in all of its cities. In the town of Rechasim in northern Israel, the positive test rate is 21%, higher than any other city in Israel. In Elad, the infection rate was 15%, in Kiryat Yearim (Telshe Stone) it was 14%, and in Bnei Brak and Kfar Chabad it was 13%.

Despite the high morbidity rate, chareidi schools, as of now, will remain open. The Health Ministry in recent days has sought to mobilize a serological testing mechanism, which appears to be faltering out of the gate. As of the weekend, some 40,000 students out of around 250,000 in the chareidi sector have been tested.

Voices in chareidi circles in recent days have expressed anger at the government for its treatment of the matter. The fact that the vaccination drive in schools was launched late, alongside the lack of a discernible safety outline for the upcoming chagim and travel to Uman, Ukraine, and the attempt to test thousands of chareidi students – have sparked considerable ire.

Among other things, the residents of chareidi cities are furious over the long lines for serological tests. “We are being used as test ‘dummies’ before the start of the school year in the general public,” said one resident of Bnei Brak.