Thousands said to attend Jerusalem Hasidic wedding in violation of virus rules

Belz religious sect reportedly holds event counter to police instructions, threatens attendees against taking photos or video

A screenshot from a video said to show thousands of ultra-Orthodox at a wedding in Jerusalem, in violation of coronavirus restrictions, on August 5, 2020. (Screenshot/Channel 12)
A screenshot from a video said to show thousands of ultra-Orthodox at a wedding in Jerusalem, in violation of coronavirus restrictions, on August 5, 2020. (Screenshot/Channel 12)

Thousands of people reportedly attended a wedding for the grandson of the leader of the Belz Hasidic sect in Jerusalem on Wednesday night in violation of coronavirus restrictions.

There were conflicting reports about whether the event was held indoors or outdoors, but video said to be from the scene appeared to show attendees in an open air structure. Government rules limit indoor gatherings to 10 people and outdoors to 20.

Attendees were supposed to be divided into “capsules,” or small groups of people, with dividers between them, Channel 12 reported, but the footage appeared to show people at the event packed closely together. Most were also not wearing face masks.

The manner in which the event was carried out violated previous agreements with police, who filed a report against the event’s organizer after it happened, Channel 12 said.

The report said organizers were aware that the event violated restrictions, were worried about police intervention, and threatened retaliation against anyone caught taking or distributing photos or video.

At the entrance to the event people were checked for cameras, it added.

The head of the sect, Rabbi Yissachar Dov Rokeach, stands out as the only senior ultra-Orthodox leader to generally disregard coronavirus restrictions, the Ynet news site noted, having in recent months held large prayer gatherings and other events against the rules.

Since the beginning of the pandemic ultra-Orthodox leaders have clashed with the government over restrictions on synagogues, religious schools and prayer groups, but have largely adhered to restrictions.

At the beginning of Israel’s outbreak, some ultra-Orthodox groups were slow to take to government guidelines, which contributed to disproportionately high infection rates in their communities, alongside the community’s typically large families, often crowded neighborhoods and communal religious practices.

A Tuesday report said the government will block a religious pilgrimage to Ukraine over the Rosh Hashanah holiday primarily attended by ultra-Orthodox Jews.

Israel has struggled in recent months to contain the outbreak, confirming close to 2,000 new infections a day. The country had 25,649 active cases as of Wednesday night, according to Health Ministry figures.

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