Police have received numerous requests in recent days to approve supposed ultra-Orthodox demonstrations at the end of the Rosh Hashanah holiday on Sunday evening, in what officials believe to be an attempt to evade coronavirus lockdown orders forbidding travel, according to a Friday report.
Channel 12 news reported that multiple requests had been filed for protests in Haredi towns just as the holiday ends — including for some 400 buses coming to Jerusalem.
Though officials believe some of the requests are legitimate, they fear many are simply cover for travel not limited by the restrictions of the lockdown set to take effect at 2 p.m. Friday, the report said.
It is traditional to spend the Rosh Hashanah holiday with family, and for religious Jews this means returning home only when allowed to drive at the end of the two-day holiday. But this year will see the new lockdown begin on Rosh Hashanah eve precisely to prevent family gatherings that could spread infections.
Authorities have warned Israelis against traveling to their relatives ahead of the beginning of the lockdown, saying they could be forced to remain there for the duration of the closure, currently set to last at least three weeks.
According to Channel 12, police officials believe the mass requests to approve protests — which are exempt from restrictions — are simply a way for rule breakers to get back home at the end of the holiday.
But police also told the network they could not prevent the mass travel from taking place, as they had no proof the requests were illegitimate.
Officials said requests to approve protests against the closure were made in Bnei Brak, Jerusalem, Elad, Modiin Illit and Beitar Illit, among others.
They expect some protests to take place, but believe the volume of requests to be far higher than the demonstrations that will actually be held, the report said.
Though the pandemic is now widespread throughout the country, for many weeks this summer, infections were largely focused in ultra-Orthodox and Arab towns, apparently a result both of less stringent adherence to health regulations as well as the more crowded conditions that characterize life in those towns.
Recurrent cases of weddings and other mass celebrations by ultra-Orthodox Israelis that failed to adhere to virus regulations have elicited public anger over the past months.