Thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews defy lockdown

Thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews attended the funeral of a top rabbi in Jerusalem on Sunday (January 31), ignoring a national lockdown.

Israel has been praised globally for its speedy vaccination efforts.

And Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had promoted a quick vaccination of Israel's most vulnerable and the lockdown as dual pathways to a possible reopening of the economy in February.

But serious cases have surged among Israelis who have not yet been vaccinated.

Officials blame this on foreign virus strains and on lockdown breaches.

Israel's often high-density Ultra-Orthodox communities make up around 15% of the population.

But account for some 35% of recent contagions according to the Health Ministry.

They are among the conservative Netanyahu's supporters and their violations have been played up by political rivals in questioning the lockdown's efficacy - and building opposition to the Prime Minister ahead of a March 23 election.