Schools in West Bank Settlement Defy Closure Order for Israel's Coronavirus Hot Spots

Betar Illit says Education Ministry didn't inform town not to open schools

Aaron Rabinowitz
Aaron Rabinowitz
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Students at a girls' school in Betar Illit, September 1, 2020.
Students at a girls' school in Betar Illit, September 1, 2020.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Aaron Rabinowitz
Aaron Rabinowitz

Ultra-Orthodox girls’ schools in the West Bank settlement of Betar Ilit opened Tuesday, flouting government orders for schools in communities with high rates of coronavirus infections to remain closed.

The coronavirus cabinet issued a directive early Tuesday morning under which schools in “red cities” would not reopen September 1.

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Betar Ilit’s education system is operated by private associations but it must comply with Israeli government directives.

The town said schools remained closed Tuesday, but parents of students in at least one school said that was not the case.

A message sent to parents by the principal of one of the largest schools in the town read: “Dear parents and students, the municipality has decided that schools will open today at 9 A.M.”

A source in Betar Ilit told Haaretz that the Education Ministry never told the town not to open schools. “You’d have to actively go and check to find that the city was rated red,” said the source.

The ministry said in response that it wasn’t its job to inform cities of their virus status.

As of Tuesday evening, 1,526 new cases of the virus were confirmed since midnight Monday, for a total of 118,122. Monday saw Israel’s highest-ever number of new cases, at 2,576.

Another 18 people died on Tuesday, while 20 died on Monday. To date, 956 Israelis have died of coronavirus infections.

Israel’s virus hot spots are mostly Arab and ultra-Orthodox towns.

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