Night curfew in Bnei Brak - 'The economic impact is devastating'

As one of the 40 "red" zones to be subjected to night curfew, Bnei Brak's streets are deserted from 7 p.m.

Y Rabinovitz ,

Nighttime curfew in Bnei Brak
Nighttime curfew in Bnei Brak
Tomer Neuberg, Flash90

This Tuesday night was the first night of a week of curfews imposed on 40 different towns and localities across the country, from seven o’clock at night until five in the morning, designed to curb the spread of the coronavirus in these “red” zones where high rates of contagion have been reported.

One of the cities categorized as a “red” zone is Bnei Brak, and the municipality’s head of health services, attorney Moshe Morgenstern, spoke with 103 FM regarding the curfew and the likelihood of its success in bringing down morbidity rates.

Morgenstern related that he made a tour of the city last night in order to see the enforcement of the curfew first-hand, and reported that it was “a distressing scene, to see Rabbi Akiva Street, the main commercial street in Bnei Brak, virtually deserted one-and-a-half weeks before Rosh Hashanah, at half-past-eight at night. The street was darkened with the stores shut; there were no people, and virtually no cars.”

Morgenstern added that the impact of the curfew is felt not only by Bnei Brak’s residents, but also by many tens of thousands more for whom the city is their commercial center. “Bnei Brak is the center of the haredi world in Israel,” he says. “It’s devastating when you consider the economic impact of the curfew, how much money the stores and traders are losing, though of course it’s better than a total lockdown,” he adds, noting that “if the government had imposed a complete closure, businesses would have entirely collapsed.”

Morgenstern emphasized the high rate of compliance of the city’s residents with the government’s coronavirus regulations, and the relatively benign enforcement of the police. “They are trying to be pleasant,” he says. “Police are posted at every junction leading from Bnei Brak to [neighboring] Ramat Gan and other cities. It’s a less conspicuous enforcement than last time [when Bnei Brak was entirely locked down, in April]. Back then, they even put up barriers, which was actually illegal. It was traumatic for local residents. But it’s still not pleasant to have people being stopped when they try to leave, or enter.”

Even more difficult to live with, in many ways, is the fact that the education system has been shut down entirely, even during daytime hours, in all “red” areas across the country. “There is no schooling, period,” Morgenstern says. “As for yeshivas, anyone who started learning in Elul [three weeks ago] in a capsule can continue – anyone else stays home.”

Morgenstern doesn’t deny that the number of cases in Bnei Brak – as in many other parts of the country – is still rising. “We conducted around 2,200 tests two days ago, and should get the results today, and then we’ll see where we’re holding. If only people with symptoms are getting tested, then the numbers will certainly drop,” he adds. Recent “spikes” in morbidity statistics in Bnei Brak and other haredi localities have been caused by the government’s requiring all yeshiva students to get tested, regardless of symptoms, which unsurprisingly yielded a portion of positive results that would likely have been replicated in any secular locality too, if their residents had been forced to be tested.

When asked if people are becoming more reluctant to get tested, Morgenstern replies that “my feeling is yes. There are definitely segments of haredi society where people are saying not to get tested.” He adds that, “People are very bitter, and perhaps rightly so. Why has the whole of Bnei Brak been locked down, whereas in other cities, only specific neighborhoods were forced to close? The feeling is that if the mayor of a city, like in Eilat, is close to the decision-makers in the government, then just a neighborhood or two is shut down. If there’s no such connection to Likud high-ups, then the whole city gets put on the red list.”

Morgenstern reiterates that he is “not denying the severity of the situation. We, as a city, have had the highest fatality rate from the epidemic in the entire country. We absolutely have to do what is needed to bring that down. If night curfews help, then that’s what we have to do.”



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