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Israel’s main virus threat comes from its ultra-Orthodox community 

18 12 0

Israel’s first confirmed case of the Covid-19 virus was on 21 February, after a citizen returned from Japan, since when the number has increased steadily, standing currently at 9,248 with 65 recorded deaths. These figures are modest when compared to the likes of Italy, Spain and the US, which all have hundreds of thousands of cases and tens of thousands killed by the pandemic.

The epicentre of Israel’s outbreak appears to be overwhelmingly among the Haredim, or ultra-Orthodox Jews concentrated in Bnei Brik, east of Tel Aviv. The authorities are said to be having a tough time in convincing members of this strictly-religious community to comply with measures imposed to curb the virus spread. An estimated 40 per cent of the city’s inhabitants have been infected; the population in 2016 was 185,882 people. If the infections are confirmed, that will have a dramatic impact on Israel’s overall virus statistics. It is a serious threat to the state.

At present, Israel is ranked between South Korea (which has managed to flatten the infection curve through its early strategy of widespread testing and other mitigation methods) and Sweden (which refused to implement a lockdown and is now expected to witness a surge in deaths as a result). However, the impact on the occupation is certainly felt more significantly than many of the most-affected countries (bar a couple, such as Switzerland and Austria) because of its smaller population.

Indeed, so serious is the security threat posed by the virus, that Israel’s military intelligence agencies have now shifted their focus away from contemporary foes Iran and Hezbollah to the “new enemy” which has killed 60 Israelis in the past month. This is by no means exclusive to Israel, as there has been a global paradigm shift in security, away from state-centric responses to transnational terrorism and intra-state warfare, to rethinking human security, a holistic discipline from the early 90s that was largely overshadowed and neglected until now. Coronavirus is the “new terrorism”, according to the executive director of Human........

© Middle East Monitor