Police break up another ultra-Orthodox wedding for flouting virus restrictions

Groom said detained at ceremony for 150 people in Beitar Illit settlement; police vow to track down owner of venue that hosted it

An illustrative photo of an ultra-Orthodox wedding in the West Bank settlement of Beitar Illit. (Yaakov Lederman/Flash90)
An illustrative photo of an ultra-Orthodox wedding in the West Bank settlement of Beitar Illit. (Yaakov Lederman/Flash90)

Police on Wednesday broke up another ultra-Orthodox wedding held in violation of Health Ministry directives meant to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

Police said some 150 people took part in the event at the West Bank settlement of Beitar Illit, well above the government’s orders that no more than 10 people be in a room at a time.

“Police forces who arrived at the scene ordered the participants to disband and detained a suspect for violating a public health order and endangering the public. The owner of the event hall will be found and brought in [for questioning] in the future,” police said in a statement.

The ultra-Orthodox Kikar HaShabbat news site identified the detainee as the groom. He was released after questioning by police, the report said.

The event was one of several cases of members of the ultra-Orthodox community failing to abide by the Health Ministry’s orders, holding large weddings and continuing to study in schools ordered closed.

More than 150 ultra-Orthodox Jews defy Health Ministry coronavirus warnings and take part in a wedding in the city of Beit Shemesh on March 17, 2020 (Screen capture: Channel 12)

Earlier Wednesday, the Health Ministry ordered the closure of all ultra-Orthodox schools. Many of them had remained open under the instruction of their religious leaders after Israel ordered the closing of all schools last week to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

Despite the new order, Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, a prominent leader of the Lithuanian ultra-Orthodox community, called for the religious schools to remain open, according to the Walla news site.

Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky at his home in Bnei Brak on December 26, 2019. (Yaakov Nahumi/Flash90)

The rabbi agreed earlier this week to a proposal brokered by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that would see no more than 10 students learning in a single classroom. Kanievsky last week had ordered his followers to ignore the Health Ministry’s coronavirus restrictions by keeping schools open.

To raise awareness of the coronavirus outbreak, the Health Ministry on Tuesday dispatched cars equipped with loudspeakers to ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods to implore residents to obey instructions aimed at curbing the coronavirus outbreak.

The messages, relayed over the loudspeakers in both Yiddish and Hebrew, are “to clarify the unprecedented urgency of obeying Health Ministry instructions,” a ministry statement said.

There have been 433 cases of the virus in Israel, six of them serious.

Israel has taken far-reaching measures to contain the pandemic, including sealing its borders to non-citizens and non-residents, calling off schools, banning gatherings of over 10 people, and shutting down all malls, gyms and restaurants.

Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.

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