Israel Plans Quarantine Facilities for Arabs, ultra-Orthodox Unable to Self-isolate

Health Ministry will provide the Interior Ministry with contact details and social workers will examine whether homes meet quarantine requirements

Lee Yaron
Lee Yaron
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Members of Israel's ultra-Orthodox Jewish community are seen wearing face masks in Jerusalem.
Members of Israel's ultra-Orthodox Jewish community are seen wearing face masks in Jerusalem.Credit: Emil Salman
Lee Yaron
Lee Yaron

The Israeli Interior Ministry and local social welfare authorities are planning to provide accommodations for ultra-Orthodox and Arab Israelis who are required to go into home quarantine due to exposure to the coronavirus but cannot do so at home.

The Health Ministry is to provide the Interior Ministry with information about the individuals, who have been diagnosed with the virus or have been exposed to a carrier, so that social workers from local governments can make home visits and decide whether the homes meet quarantine requirements. If it is decided that the requirements cannot be met at home, for example where there are large number of children and a single bathroom, the individual will be asked to move to motel-type lodgings provided by the Interior Ministry.

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Interior Ministry officials made it clear that no one would be forcibly moved out of their homes. In response to a question from Haaretz, ministry director general Mordechai Cohen said: “There won’t be a soldier with a weapon taking them into quarantine by force. Even when it comes to patients with confirmed cases, there is no order or authority to remove someone from their home by force.”

The Interior Ministry is placing priority on public information, Cohen said. “If that doesn’t solve the problem, and we are faced with a large number of patients who refuse to leave home, we will also deal with that issue.” Cohen also gave his assurance that the information from the Health Ministry would be kept in “digital safes” and that complete confidentiality of the information would be maintained.

East Jerusalem, March 2020.Credit: Emil Salman

The Interior Ministry intends to begin implementing the program in ultra-Orthodox communities. On Monday, the ministry began renting overnight accommodations in Jerusalem and in the ultra-Orthodox Tel Aviv suburb of Bnei Brak. At a second stage, the ministry will transfer residents of Arab communities including Bedouin communities to overnight accommodations. The facilities will be staffed by soldiers from the Home Front Command, who will ensure that quarantine rules are observed.

An estimated 50,000 to 100,000 people who are required to be quarantined have failed to report to the Health Ministry that they have done so, Cohen said. “We estimate that the number of people who need to be in quarantine is two or three times the figure [of those who have reported] to the Health Ministry,” he said. “There are entire populations that have not reported, that are not accustomed to filling out internet forms, or that in no way realize that residents need to be in quarantine. We understand that the Arab and ultra-Orthodox communities don’t perceive the directives in the same way as the general public.”

For his part, Interior Minister Arye Dery, of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, said the goal was to accomplish the task by every possible means. “In the ultra-Orthodox and Arab sectors, there are families with large numbers of children and a large number of disadvantaged families, so we are acting quickly to isolate the patients and to prevent a spread. That’s the task and work are working will all our power to carry it out.”

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