Quarantined Jerusalem councilman attends municipal meeting, causes ruckus

City Council members abruptly end meeting after Yohanan Weitzman shows up, despite assurances he was cleared to attend by Health Ministry

Jerusalem City Hall on August 22, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Jerusalem City Hall on August 22, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

A Jerusalem municipality meeting was abruptly halted on Tuesday after Councilman Yohanan Weitzman of the United Torah Judaism party allegedly broke quarantine to attend.

Weitzman, whose daughter was recently diagnosed with COVID-19, said the Health Ministry had informed him that he was not required to self-isolate and that he had voluntarily quarantined himself while waiting to take a coronavirus test.

After Weitzman was informed by the municipality that he would not be able to attend Tuesday’s meeting remotely, he showed up in person.

Other council members refused to continue the discussion until he left, emptying the hall and summoning a security guard, Hebrew media reported.

“On Saturday evening, I took it upon myself to enter isolation due to being exposed to a confirmed patient last Saturday,” he said in a statement tweeted by ultra-Orthodox journalist Ari Kalman.

“I received a call yesterday afternoon from the Health Ministry informing me that I was not required to remain in isolation,” he continued, adding that he was still trying to avoid enclosed spaces until being tested.

While he said he couldn’t comment on individual cases because of privacy concerns, a Health Ministry source did tell The Times of Israel that it was “not at all uncommon” for people to be released from quarantine during the course of contact tracing investigations.

Jerusalem City Council member Fleur Hassan-Nahoum adresses a rally in solidarity with the alleged victims of Malka Leifer outside the Jerusalem District Court on March 13, 2019. (Johanna Chisholm/Times of Israel)

“City Councilman Weizman is an honest man and a dear colleague and has been among the most stringent about mask wearing and keeping distance from others,” Deputy Mayor Fleur Hassan-Nahoum told The Times of Israel.

“He mentioned at the committee meeting that as extra precaution he will keep an even bigger distance from everyone than is required not because he had to but because he was being responsible.”

Jerusalem’s ultra-Orthodox have been hit hard by the pandemic.

In the beginning of July, as the second wave of the virus began spreading through the capital, the Coronavirus National Information and Knowledge Center, an advisory panel to the Health Ministry and the Home Front Command, reported that the rise in cases was mostly concentrated in ultra-Orthodox and East Jerusalem neighborhoods.

Ultra-Orthodox residents of Jerusalem held several nights of demonstrations last week to protest government lockdowns of several of their neighborhoods as a measure to try and stop the spread of the virus.

Ultra-Orthodox lawmakers have recently demanded an end to what they say is biased and selective enforcement of public health regulations that unfairly targets their community.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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