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UTJ deputy minister Meir Porush attends mass ultra-Orthodox wedding in Haifa

Hundreds of guests crowd indoor event hall, ignoring Health Ministry guidelines; Porush’s office says he was there ‘for only a few minutes,’ calls on populace to follow rules

Deputy Minister of Education Meir Porush speaks during a ceremony for newly appointed Minister of Education Yoav Galant, at the Ministry of Education in Jerusalem on May 18 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Deputy Minister of Education Meir Porush speaks during a ceremony for newly appointed Minister of Education Yoav Galant, at the Ministry of Education in Jerusalem on May 18 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Deputy Education Minister Meir Porush attended a mass wedding on Tuesday evening in an indoor event hall in Haifa along with several hundred followers of the Seret-Vishnitz Hasidic dynasty, in contravention of Health Ministry guidelines.

The well-attended wedding took place on the same night a 40-city curfew began throughout Israel affecting some 1.3 million Israelis, mainly from the Haredi and Arab sectors, which have been hit especially hard by the pandemic.

The wedding in Haifa broke Health Ministry guidelines for holding events in closed spaces. Video from the event showed some wearing masks, but many wore them on their chins.

The United Torah Judaism MK’s office released a statement on Wednesday saying “The deputy education minister attended a wedding that took place last night for only a few minutes. The deputy minister calls on the public to conduct themselves according to and obey the Health Ministry’s instructions.”

Haifa is considered an “orange” city according to the Health Ministry’s so-called traffic light system. Orange cities have high morbidity rates and indoor gatherings are allowed to fill 20 percent of the maximum capacity specified in a location’s license (or one person per four square meters, if capacity is unspecified).

On Tuesday, Porush criticized the curfews imposed on 40 high-risk areas in Israel for being applied to entire Haredi cities instead of selected neighborhoods.

Housing Minister Yaakov Litzman, who leads the United Torah Judaism party, was infected with coronavirus in April when he was health minister. He was also caught at the time attending a prayer minyan of more than 10 men despite a ban on such gatherings.

Tuesday’s event was not the first time a large ultra-Orthodox wedding broke Health Ministry guidelines during the pandemic in Israel.

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)

In August, some 2,000 people attended the wedding for the grandson of the spiritual leader of the Belz Hasidic sect in Jerusalem, with images from the event showing thousands of people sitting next to each other, indoors, without keeping distance or wearing masks.

While the ultra-Orthodox have been disproportionately hit by the virus, Israelis from all sectors have been reportedly not adhering to Health Ministry guidelines to limited gatherings. Most recently in Haifa, a video emerged on social media on Tuesday evening that showed dozens of unmasked people dancing in a tightly packed nightclub.

Failure to adhere to guidelines has also been reported in the Arab community, with weddings and other celebration going forward despite the pandemic.

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