Betar Illit in West Bank seemed to have been prepared for the pandemic, something completely unheard of in these orthodox settlements on the West Bank. Unlike other ultra-Orthodox, or Haredi, communities, the authorities in Betar Ilit showed flexibility and the residents’ demonstrated discipline not seen in other ultra-Orthodox locales.
Utensil shops have remained closed, shoe shops are willing to do home delivery. This is a time when a great celebration is seen in Israel. However, owing to the guideline of social distancing, there are no visitors allowed. Koshering, a popular practice at the time of the Passover, is being done through home delivery. No wonder the cases of infection are the lowest in Betar Ilit, in comparison to the Tel Aviv suburb of Bnei Brak and Elad east of Tel Aviv.
The residents of Betar Ilit have indeed shown that they prefer to move with the times. A situation room was already established within the town, much before the pandemic hit parts of the West Bank. Schools closed in the settlement before they did in other towns, and online classes began. At the same time, public spaces such as playgrounds were placed off-limits. Yeshivas were practicing social distancing when other Haredi yeshivas kept on operating without restrictions.
Even the rabbis are cooperating with guidelines set down by the Ministry Of Health. Testing has been made possible through home-to-home facilities because only 30 percent of residents own a car, and the only drive-in testing could have taken only two cars at a time. Testing was timely and quick and residents didn’t have to expose others to the virus or contract it themselves, as they might have had to travel to Jerusalem if they needed to get themselves tested.
Because the city is not so densely populated, it was easy to spread a cautious word of social distancing. People started to cooperate and stand at a distance to get to supermarkets. Some sent a joint list for two to three households and reduced the headcount outside.
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