Israel tightens restrictions in Jerusalem to fight coronavirus

Israel tightens restrictions in Jerusalem to fight coronavirus
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Israel on Sunday tightened quarantine restrictions on several parts of Jerusalem as part of national efforts to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

A government committee voted to restrict movement in and out of numerous largely ultra-Orthodox parts of the city, including Jerusalem’s historic Old City, The Associated Press reported. Numerous ultra-Orthodox members of Prime Minister Benjamin NetanyahuBenjamin (Bibi) NetanyahuMORE’s government had strongly dissented from the measure, arguing it would single out a specific religious group.

A large percentage of the over 10,000 confirmed cases of the virus are among members of the community, with roughly a fifth of all cases in Israel overall in Jerusalem.


The restrictions will apply to four areas within the city, with residents only permitted to leave their neighborhoods for medical care or essential work and restricted to their own neighborhoods for essential shopping, according to the AP.

Social distancing measures have already severely restricted public observation of numerous religious holidays, including Passover, Easter and Ramadan. The Priestly Benediction, traditionally held during Passover, was limited to 10 men at the Western Wall, the holiest prayer site in Judaism despite typically attracting tens of thousands.

Meanwhile, at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, which Catholics and members of the Greek Orthodox and Armenian Apostolic churches believe to be the site of Jesus’ crucifixion and burial, Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the region’s highest-ranking Catholic cleric performed an Easter Mass in a predominantly empty church.

“My message is that despite the sign of death and fear that we are seeing everywhere all over the world we have to look at the good all those that are giving their lives for the others," Pizzaballa said, according to the AP. “The message of Easter is the life, despite all, will prevail.”

Israel last week announced a “strictly” enforced lockdown on travel during Passover, with Netanyahu directing citizens to hold Passover seders exclusively with immediate family members who are already a part of their households.

“I know that this is very onerous but there is simply no choice. We will strictly enforce the lockdown,” Netanyahu said.