Walk with an israeli police officer down one of the crowded alleyways of bnei brak, a city east of tel aviv that is home to tens of thousands of devout, ultraorthodox jewish families, and an eerie cry echoes from the windows.

Nazi, nazi, the children scream, pouring out of houses to warn their elders the police have arrived to break up the crowds that are regularly defying a nationwide coronavirus lockdown to celebrate the holiest weeks of the jewish calendar.

Scuffles ensue. eggs are thrown. the crowds grow angrier. eventually the police retreat, seeking to avoid the spectacle of armed officers fighting elderly men especially those from a politically influential and divisive minority group that has become a lightning rod for tension over israels second coronavirus lockdown.

The latest curbs were imposed in mid-september as new infections per capita climbed to among the highest in the world, after months of inaction from prime minister benjamin netanyahu. public anger exploded last weekend after he used the lockdown to restrict protests to within a kilometre of peoples homes, with no more than 20 people at each.

Since then, tens of thousands have taken part in illegal demonstrations in tel aviv and jerusalem, demanding mr netanyahu step down, occasionally scuffling with police determined to impose social distancing.

Meanwhile, as the prime ministers coalition faces the challenges of fighting the virus and boosting the economy, it is consumed by infighting and teetering on collapse.

But amid the divisions, many israelis appear united in frustration at one thing: the public defiance of the lockdown in cities such as bnei brak, where members of dozens of religious jewish sects lead segregated lives outside the norms of modern israel.

Israeli television has for the past week led the evening news with footage of thousands of haredi men taking part in festivities, funerals and prayers on crowded streets and private venues, with most synagogues shut by law.

The community has since become the target of public ire. this is one of the worst events in the history of the state of israel, moti ravid, director of one of bnei braks main hospitals who was subsequently forced to resign over his comments told reporters on thursday. i think that to this day, there has never been an entire group that is as unruly in this way...this is some sort of defiance.

The phenomenon is not confined to israel: hassidic neighbourhoods in london and new york have seen similar friction, with orthodox jewish men taking to brooklyns streets on tuesday to burn masks.

The haredim make up about 10 per cent of the israeli population and about a quarter of new infections. big families often live in crowded homes and large groups worship and study at close quarters, making disease transmission harder to control.

In the first wave, haredi elderly made up some 70 per cent of those hospitalised, with the army deployed to ultraorthodox neighbourhoods to impose curfews and ferry the sick to corona hotels in an attempt to curb the pandemic.

This time some haredim have publicly fought the lockdown, which has coincided with the holiest weeks in the jewish calendar, starting with rosh hashana and yom kippur and extending into sukkot, which ended on october 9.

But yitzhak pindros, a member of parliament for united torah judaism, a leading haredi political party, said the media images gave the government a convenient scapegoat for its own failure: its a great sport in israel whenever something goes wrong, you blame the haredi.

The traditional haredi way of life, rather than mass defiance, lay behind the communitys coronavirus toll, he said, arguing that many had taken the precautions to heart, praying outdoors and eschewing synagogues even during the holiest days.

The confrontation has highlighted a simmering feud between ultraorthodox jews and the rest of israeli society, which has long chafed at the concessions enjoyed by the haredim.

Haredi men who study at the yeshiva religious institutes and all women are exempt from military service, their children follow a different school curriculum and many large families live mainly on stipends from the state.

Their political clout stems from powerful rabbis, who direct congregations to vote for haredi politicians, who have formed the backbone of mr netanyahus coalitions for over a decade.

Two haredi sects in particular had intentionally set out to defy the national lockdown, said meshi zaav, founder of the ultraorthodox emergency response organisation zaka.

For rabbis who promised the authorities they would control the situation, they understand this is a huge problem that will stay for decades as a stain, because now the seculars are saying you are spreading the disease," he said.

One attempted to achieve herd immunity, letting young people study in crowded yeshivas, only pausing when infections spread to the elderly. another, made up mostly of anti-zionists who resist state authority, led the clashes with the police.

Community leaders say the confrontations could have been avoided.

The government made a huge mistake instead of going to talk to the haredi people, ask them what are their needs, what is their culture... what are you demonstrating against the government started to give blows on their heads, said avraham yustman, vice-president of kemach, an institute that helps young haredis get jobs and scholarships. that deepened the mistrust, that created the breach.

The mutual suspicion has left the police unwilling to engage in street-to-street lockdown enforcement. the government needs to talk to the rabbis they only listen to their rabbis, not to us, said one police officer who spoke on condition of anonymity.

They spit on us, they fight us, they throw eggs, they call us nazi but when they need help, they call us very nicely. this is not how it should be done.