The Israeli army handed out Yiddish-Hebrew dictionaries to soldiers deployed to enforce movement restrictions in the ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak so they can communicate with the residents of the town severely hit by the coronavirus epidemic.
Soldiers have generally been tasked with supporting civilian teams in testing, evacuating patients for medical treatment, evacuating elderly citizens who have agreed to be quarantined outside the city, and providing food and medical aid to families in need. They have also been assigned to nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
There is an ongoing effort to expand aid given to inhabitants during the crisis, with hundreds of paratroopers and commandos reassigned to the effort. Of about 125 thousand meals distributed to the needy throughout Israel, 5,000 were given in Bnei Brak, according to the army.
One of the greatest challenges facing a joint effort by military and civilian authorities has been access to information. Many residents of Bnei Brak don’t follow non-ultra-Orthodox media and do not have smart phones or internet. There is also a problem of under-reporting. Not everyone with symptoms is in a hurry to report them, either out of shame or the desire to maintain privacy.
Many are worried that the upcoming holiday of Passover, which is usually a time at which extended families gather, could create more opportunities for contagion.
The Israeli government declared the whole of Bnei Brak a 'restricted zone' on Thursday, after further testing confirmed the city had become a major hot spot for COVID-19.
Residents on Friday woke up to soldiers patrolling empty streets and all entrances and exits taped across, as civilian and military leaders attempted to curb the outbreak. To date, the number of coronavirus patients is 1,218, which represents 5.74 patients per thousand inhabitants.