Synagogues, Yeshivas and Hospitals: Most Coronavirus Prone Locations in Israel

Analysis of Health Ministry’s contact tracing information shows 30 percent of patients visited synagogues or yeshivas, possibly linked to Purim celebrations this month

Workers perform disinfection at the Great Synagogue in Tel Aviv on March 17, 2020.
Moti Milrod

An analysis of the places appearing on the Health Ministry’s coronavirus contact tracing studies shows that more than 30 percent of those infected in public spaces visited synagogues and yeshivas or were exposed there to the virus.

The government has announced hundreds of locations where coronavirus carriers were known to have been infected or present based on authorities’ contact tracing – the search for people who have come into contact with someone infected in order to trace the spread of the disease and prevent further infection.

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The ministry’s research was examined by Yair Assaf-Shapira, a researcher at the Jerusalem Institute for Policy Research. He drew up an interactive map showing the 800 locations that appeared in the ministry’s information. The map found that the most common public places to be exposed to the virus, other than religious establishments, are hospitals and clinics.

Chart showing categories of public places where patients contracted the coronavirus in Israel as of March 22, 2020.

The findings show that 263 of the 800 locations are synagogues and yeshivas. Assaf-Shapira says an analysis of the dates links a large source of contagion to the Purim parties in mid-March. He predicts that the proportion of synagogues on the list will drop in the coming days, when more than two weeks have passed since the holiday. Ninety-five of the synagogues and yeshivas on the list are in Jerusalem, while 107 are in the greater Tel Aviv area known as Gush Dan.

The second group of places where virus carriers were present consists of clinics and hospitals, with 77 such places appearing on the map. Since the pandemic broke out, 42 medical personnel have contracted the virus, and the map reflects this. Other relatively common locations are supermarkets, with 57 cases having visited them, and shopping centers, with 48 cases. Thirty-nine restaurants, which have now switched to offering only delivery orders, also appear on the map.