The leader of the Belz Hassidic dynasty, Rabbi Yissachar Dov Rokeach, was admitted on Sunday to the coronavirus ward at Jerusalem's Hadassah Medical Center nearly 11 days after holding a wedding for his grandson with thousands in attendance, violating health directives intended to curb the spread of COVID-19.
The wedding was held indoors at the Hassidic court's center in Jerusalem those at the venue were documented standing and dancing in close quarters and without face masks.
The event marks a major violation of social distancing regulations and assurances given to Jerusalem police by organizers.
Police fined some of the event's organizers for violating coronavirus directives and announced they will be launching a criminal investigation after documentations from the event appeared in the media.
Rokeach has been openly dismissive of health ministry directives aiming the slow the spread of the pathogen which is prevalent among ultra-Orthodox communities.
Rokeach had held mass prayers and religious lessons in the months leading up to the wedding and was accompanied at the Western Wall by large groups of people who were not wearing masks or observing social distancing.
The Hassidic court explained that the Rabbi viewed the spiritual damage caused to his followers from health directives to be much greater than any risk to their physical health. Rokeach's followers were also instructed to avoid reporting any illness to authorities in fear that mass coronavirus contagion could lead to further restrictions on the community.
After pictures of the massive crowds at the event were broadcast in the media, Professor Ronni Gamzu - who directs the government's response to the coronavirus pandemic - expressed his anger at the Hassidic court and the rabbi's behavior and warned that elderly people in attendance could become seriously ill with COVID-19.