Some 150 ultra-Orthodox Jews defied Health Ministry coronavirus orders against public gatherings and attended a wedding in the city of Beit Shemesh near Jerusalem on Tuesday, police said.
Officers arrested one of the participants, a man in his 40s, saying he had violated a quarantine order and potentially infected the other participants.
A police spokesman said he had been arrested for “endangering the public and their health.”
Pictures posted on social media showed dozens of men crowding together and dancing during the celebrations.
פרסמנו הערב במהדורה תיעוד מאירוע שמתרחש עכשיו בבית שמש: חתונה של משפחות אדמו״רים בהשתתפות כמאתיים בני אדם.
עם כל המאמץ לא להכליל זאת כבר לא רשלנות או חוסר מודעות נקודתיים אלא זלזול ורמיסה של אמצעי הזהירות. הראשונים להיפגע חלילה יהיו החוגגים עצמם ומשפחותיהם, ובהמשך כולנו. pic.twitter.com/tqVwRNIguJ
— יאיר שרקי (@yaircherki) March 17, 2020
Israel has issued harsh restrictions on public gatherings, telling people on Tuesday not to leave their homes unless absolutely necessary. The announcement was part of the latest wave of sweeping and dramatic restrictions to curb the spread of the coronavirus, bringing Israel a step closer to a full lockdown.
The public was instructed not to go out to parks, playgrounds, the beach, pools, libraries, museums or other public places, the Health Ministry said. Exceptions could be made for taking out children and pets — in accordance with instructions for maintaining hygiene and limiting social contact.
Parts of the ultra-Orthodox community have been reluctant to abide by the coronavirus restrictions.
Last week some groups refused to close down schools and yeshivas in line with government instructions, ultimately agreeing to a proposal backed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that would see no more than 10 students learning in a single classroom.
Similar scenes were reported in ultra-Orthodox communities in the US with large public gatherings going ahead despite bans in the New York area, where 100 people tested positive for the new coronavirus in Borough Park, a Hasidic neighborhood in Brooklyn, on Tuesday.
However, it is not just ultra-Orthodox groups who have been ignoring government guidelines.
Netanyahu on Tuesday reprimanded Israelis for failing to grasp the gravity of the growing coronavirus crisis, urging them to stay home wherever possible, as top health officials said thousands could die of the disease if the public did not strictly adhere to government guidelines.
“This isn’t child’s play, it’s not summer vacation, it’s a matter of life and death,” Netanyahu said at an evening press conference after media outlets reported extensively over the past two days on Israelis making use of their newfound free time to enjoy the beach and public parks.