First Coronavirus Wave Hit Jerusalem's ultra-Orthodox, Second Wave Hit Whole City

Internal data obtained by Haaretz shows that East Jerusalem, secular Jewish neighborhoods are driving the recent increase in confirmed cases

Aaron Rabinowitz
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People walk in Jerusalem during the coronavirus outbreak, July 5, 2020.
People walk in Jerusalem during the coronavirus outbreak, July 5, 2020.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Aaron Rabinowitz

The second wave of the coronavirus has spread throughout Jerusalem, while the first wave was confined mainly to its ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods, according to internal data obtained by Haaretz.

Jerusalem has the most infected people of any city in Israel – as of Friday, that figure was 2,310 people, of which 1,834 were diagnosed over the past two weeks. The infection rate in Jerusalem is 21 residents per 10,000, while two weeks ago the figure was 7 per 10,000. But despite repeated requests, the Jerusalem municipality has refused to publish the breakdown of data by neighborhood and population group.

The figures show that the infection rate in the city’s Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem has spiked considerably. In April, there were three confirmed cases per 10,000 residents in these areas, and two weeks ago the figure was 2 per 10,000. However, the figure has now risen to 15 cases per 10,000. About 26 percent of active cases are people coming from Palestinian neighborhoods – 622 people.

Jerusalem's Old City during the coronavirus outbreak, July 3, 2020.
Jerusalem's Old City during the coronavirus outbreak, July 3, 2020.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

In contrast, the number of cases in ultra-Orthodox Jerusalem has declined. About 70 percent of infected Jerusalemites in the first wave of the virus lived in these neighborhoods, while at present the figure is 41 percent – 958 people. The rate of infections in the ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods is now 35 per 10,000 residents, as opposed to 60 per 10,000 in the first wave. About two weeks ago, the figure was 9 per 10,000.

There are another 555 active coronavirus cases in the rest of Jerusalem. At the height of the first wave, the rate of infection in Jerusalem overall was 12 residents per 10,000 while currently the rate is 14 per 10,000. About two weeks ago, the figure was 7 per 10,000.

About one fifth of all coronavirus cases in Jerusalem are schoolchildren – 482 altogether. Of these, slightly more than half (251 exactly) are students in the ultra-Orthodox system, about a third (146) are in the secular state system and less than a fifth (85) are in the Arab school system. Recently, the virus has spread mainly in ultra-Orthodox institutions. In May and June, most children infected attended state schools, following the outbreak at the Gymnasia Rehavia High School. So far, the outbreak has touched 207 Jerusalem schools, half of them ultra-Orthodox institutions, less than a third Arab schools and 22 percent state schools.

Patients on the whole tend to be young: More than 50 percent of the people infected whose age is known (1,107 in all) are under 26. Another 34 percent (708) are aged 27 to 53. Older people, who are more at risk of complications from coronavirus, only constitute 16 percent altogether: 160 are aged 54 to 62, 108 are between 53 and 71, and 95 patients are over 72.

Children in the neighborhood of Romema, in Jerusalem, after it was put under lockdown to prevent the spread of coronavirus, May 1, 2020.
Children in the neighborhood of Romema, in Jerusalem, after it was put under lockdown to prevent the spread of coronavirus, May 1, 2020.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

On Friday the government imposed a lockdown on the ultra—Orthodox neighborhoods of Romema, Kiryat Sanz-Belz and Kiryat Mattersdorf due to the high infection rates. Overnight on Saturday, police arrested ten people in these areas for disturbing the peace, as they protested the restrictions. Residents were seen blocking roads, tearing roadblocks, and throwing stones at police.

The highest infection rate was found in the neighborhoods of Mattersdorf-Unsdorf (62 per 10,000 residents), the central bus station area (56 per 10,000), Kiryat Sanz-Belz (53 per 10,000), Tel Arazim-Ezrat Torah (44 per 10,000) and Har Nof (41 per 10,000).

The number of infected person in Kiryat Belz may in fact be higher, because some Hasidic rabbis have instructed their followers not to be tested. The lowest rate of infection was found in neighborhoods affiliated with extremist groups in Haredi society – Mea She’arim and Beit Yisrael, where there were 20 confirmed cases per 10,000 residents, however, there too, residents are unwilling to be tested, and so the number is probably higher.

An ultra-Orthodox man wears a mask that says 'Jewish, not Zionist' to counter the coronavirus outbreak, Jerusalem, July 5, 2020.
An ultra-Orthodox man wears a mask that says 'Jewish, not Zionist' to counter the coronavirus outbreak, Jerusalem, July 5, 2020.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

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