Poll: 78% of Haredim back health rules, 60% broke them to send kids to school

Survey finds that 1 in 5 ultra-Orthodox adults was infected by coronavirus, Sephardic groups most compliant with restrictions barring in-person classes

Illustrative: Ultra-Orthodox Jewish people attend a funeral in Jerusalem, October 12, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Illustrative: Ultra-Orthodox Jewish people attend a funeral in Jerusalem, October 12, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A majority of Israel’s ultra-Orthodox believe in the importance of lockdown restrictions to curb the coronavirus, but a majority of the community also sent their children to school in violation of the rules, according to a survey published Wednesday.

The survey said that 78 percent of ultra-Orthodox, or Haredi, Israelis believe there is “great” or “moderate” importance to adhering to the Health Ministry’s rules during the pandemic.

Twenty-two percent said there was little to no importance to following the guidelines.

The survey by the Askaria research firm said 60% of respondents sent their children to Torah-teaching schools that opened against health regulations.

Of the remaining 40%, most did not send their children to school because the institutions were closed, rather than a conviction to keep to the guidelines.

Nearly one in five — 19% — of the survey respondents were infected by the virus before the third wave of infections had begun in Israel. Ninety-eight percent said they knew at least one person personally who was infected.

The Haredi community has been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus. Though many Haredim keep to the guidelines, certain sectors of the community have repeatedly flaunted restrictions, including by holding mass events for holidays, weddings and funerals.

The survey found that Lithuanian ultra-Orthodox sects were most supportive of lockdown restrictions, with 70% agreeing they were “very important,” but also led the way in school violations, with 70% sending their kids to class against guidelines.

Ultra-Orthodox men attend the funeral of late Rabbi Aharon David Hadash, spiritual leader of the Mir Yeshiva, in Jerusalem, December 3, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

For Hasidic groups, 41% said guidelines were very important, and 66% violated school restrictions.

The most compliant were Sephardic groups — 25% sent their children to school against restrictions, and 65% strongly supported the guidelines.

The poll was carried out by the Askaria research firm, which specializes in surveying the ultra-Orthodox community, with assistance from Hebrew University in Jerusalem and the University of Mainz in Germany. The results were reported by the Ynet news site.

The poll questioned 500 people representative of the Haredi population in Israel and had a margin of error of 4.4%. The report did not say when the survey was administered.

Health Ministry data showed that one in 132 Haredi adults in Israel over the age of 65 died of COVID-19, compared with one in 475 adults over 65 among the general population. That puts the death toll among Haredi adults over 65 at 3.6 times that of the general Israeli population of the same age group.

Israel’s vaccine campaign against COVID-19 is in full swing, with 152,000 shots administered on Tuesday, even as Israel recorded its highest number of new COVID-19 cases in months.

Israel is leading the world in per capita inoculations with a total of 635,000 vaccinations since the national campaign began on December 20.

The nation entered its third lockdown on Sunday to curb its third-wave virus outbreak. The Health Ministry said 5,583 new coronavirus cases were confirmed Tuesday, the highest daily tally since early October, during the second lockdown.

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