Low infection Tel Aviv gets 2.5 times more fines than high infection Bnei Brak

Discriminatory enforcement: Data shows stricter police imposition of virus regulations in secular cities where COVID rates are low, than ultra-Orthodox ones where contagion is high

Police patrol Dizengoff Square in Tel Aviv, February 01, 2021 (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)
Police patrol Dizengoff Square in Tel Aviv, February 01, 2021 (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

Amid complaints of uneven enforcement of lockdown regulations, in which people sitting alone in parks in Tel Aviv get fined while large Haredi gatherings continue to take place and are largely ignored by authorities, figures released on Monday revealed that police were handing out proportionally far more fines in predominantly secular localities than in ultra-Orthodox ones.

According to Channel 13 news, there were 110 fines given in Herzliya per 10,000 residents in the month of January, 117 in Bat Yam and 155 in Tel Aviv. All three locations have a mainly secular population and have generally had relatively low rates of infection throughout the pandemic.

In contrast, there were just 59 fines handed out per 10,000 residents in the predominantly ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak, which has struggled with high levels of morbidity for large periods of the pandemic and is currently classified as a high infection locality.

The outlet revealed that the number of fines handed out per active coronavirus patient was 3.35 in Tel Aviv, 3.5 in Herzliya, and just 0.3 in Bnei Brak.

Ultra-Orthodox demonstrators protest against the police enforcement of lockdown orders due to the coronavirus outbreak, in the city of Bnei Brak, January 24, 2021. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

The report did not clarify whether the fines were handed out for violations of the same severity in all locations.

Last month saw violent clashes between police in Bnei Brak as protesters opposing lockdown regulations rioted  in the city, including setting fire to a bus.

On Sunday, Defense Minister Benny Gantz lambasted the government’s “fake lockdown” and “unequal enforcement” as the Knesset passed a bill stepping up enforcement of the lockdown by doubling fines for violators.

Anger over disregard shown in parts of the Haredi community toward coronavirus restrictions reached new highs on Sunday when authorities failed to stop two large Haredi funerals from taking place, with thousands of people, many maskless, breaking lockdown regulations and failing to observe any social distancing, creating major health hazards.

Ultra-Orthodox men attend the funeral of late Rabbi Yitzchok Sheiner, in Jerusalem, January 31, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

There have been multiple other reports of lockdown violations among the ultra-Orthodox, including mass weddings and schools operating illegally.

The disparity in policing was revealed as data released Monday showed that almost a quarter of all new Israeli coronavirus patients are from the ultra-Orthodox community, highlighting the disastrous spread of COVID-19 through Haredi cities and neighborhoods.

The figures were released amid rising public anger over violations of virus rules in parts of the Haredi community, and as the British variant of the virus, which spreads especially fast in high-density environments, runs amok.

The Health Ministry’s data, based on averages of new cases over the last week, showed that 23 percent of new cases were from people who come from areas that are predominantly Haredi, even though just 12% of Israelis belong to the ultra-Orthodox community.

Nathan Jeffay contributed to this report.

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